US shoots down Chinese Surveillance Balloon Over Atlantic
Last week a high-altitude Chinese balloon crossed over the US, leading to further allegations by the US that Beijing has been engaging in an increasingly aggressive global surveillance program. The US military ultimately shot the balloon down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday and the Navy released photos of its recovery effort on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden said he wanted the balloon shot down earlier, but the Pentagon advised against doing so over land due to the risk of debris falling to the ground. The House of Representatives passed a resolution unanimously condemning the Chinese Communist Party’s use of the balloon and labeling the incident a “brazen violation of US sovereignty.”
The balloon was around 200 feet tall and carried a payload comparable in size to a regional airliner, weighing more than two thousand pounds including digital cameras, radar, and signals and communications gear. It was shot down by a US fighter jet from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia with an AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
The incident prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to call off a long-planned trip to Beijing, the first such visit by a secretary of state in six years. US intelligence, military and foreign policy officials briefed Congress on Thursday about the balloon, while the FBI has begun evaluating the debris that was recovered.
China has insisted that the balloon was a weather device blown astray and not intended for spying. Surveillance balloons may be equipped with high-tech imaging gear, offering close-range monitoring. They can also be capable of “gathering electronic signals” and intercepting communications, according to experts. The US has vowed to take action against PRC entities linked to the PLA that supported the balloon’s incursion.
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 are still searching for debris from the balloon off the South Carolina coast. China has used similar surveillance balloons in over 40 countries across five continents, according to US officials. The US-China relationship remains tense as both countries look to the future.
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