The recent controversy surrounding the massive white orb that was shot down by the Air Force over the Atlantic has created a diplomatic upheaval and sparked social media debates. The U.S. claims that the balloon was a Chinese spy, while China argues that it was just a civilian airship used for meteorological research.
Regardless of who is telling the truth, the presence of the balloon prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to China, highlighting the tension between the two countries. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the facts surrounding the balloon and find out the truth behind this mysterious incident.
The U.S. Claims: A Chinese Spy Balloon Without a Doubt
The Pentagon and U.S. officials claim that the balloon was indeed a Chinese spy balloon, about the size of three school buses, and was being used for surveillance and intelligence collection. According to the U.S., the balloon entered the U.S. air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan 28 and moved over land across Alaska and into Canadian airspace. The next day, it crossed back into U.S. territory over northern Idaho.
The U.S. government acted promptly to protect against the collection of sensitive information and President Biden authorized the military to shoot it down as soon as it was in a location where there would not be undue risk to civilians. The balloon was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet from Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base, and the debris of its sensors and the balloon itself was expected to stretch for miles.
China’s Response: An Errant Civilian Airship
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that the use of force by the U.S. was “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.” China insists that the balloon was just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds and had limited “self-steering” capabilities. The country has reserved the right to take further actions in response to the U.S. shooting down the balloon.
The Risk Posed by the Balloon
Even if the balloon was not armed, it posed a risk to the U.S. Retired Army General John Ferrari, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, stated that the flight could be used to test America’s ability to detect incoming threats and to find holes in the country’s air defense warning system. The balloon may have also allowed the Chinese to sense electromagnetic emissions that higher-altitude satellites cannot detect, such as low-power radio frequencies that could help them understand how different U.S. weapons systems communicate.
The recent controversy surrounding the China balloon has brought to light the tension between the U.S. and China and the threat posed by foreign surveillance activities. Although the truth behind the balloon remains uncertain, it’s clear that the U.S. government acted promptly to protect against the collection of sensitive information and ensure the safety of the country. The aftermath of the incident will surely have lasting effects on the relationship between the two nations and the world will be watching closely to see how the situation develops.