US Military Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloons in North American Airspace
Last week, the United States military shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina, which had been traveling across the country for days prior. In response, the US has since shot down three additional aerial objects in the US and Canadian airspace over the past few days, prompting investigations into the objects’ origins and purpose.
The first object, a Chinese balloon, was shot down by F-22 fighter jets off the coast of South Carolina on February 4. The US government described it as a Chinese surveillance device, while the Chinese government said it was an errant weather balloon. That same day, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken postponed a trip to Beijing in response.
On Friday, the US shot down an object over Alaska, followed by another over Canada on Saturday and a third over Michigan on Sunday. These objects are believed to be potential surveillance tools, but the White House has not seen any indication that they are linked to China or any other foreign spy program.
The Financial Times reported earlier this week that dozens of Chinese military balloons had been spotted in Taiwan's airspace in recent years, with the most recent just a few weeks ago. In response, an employee at the marine development authority of Qingdao’s Jimo district said “relevant authorities” were preparing to bring down an unidentified flying object.
Rep. Adam Smith (Wa.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said China “almost certainly” launched the three objects shot down by the US military in North American airspace, noting that balloons are a common source of pilot reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).
Though surveillance balloons are primitive compared to satellites, they are cheaper and harder to spot and can provide data that satellites cannot. Many countries have been using balloons for intelligence gathering for at least 200 years, so the idea is not new and the advantages are well known.
The US views the objects as potential surveillance tools, but the White House has not seen any indication that they are linked to China or any other foreign spy program. As Rep. Smith noted, the US definitely wants to stop them from conducting surveillance, but there is nothing for the public to worry about.
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