China Spy Balloon Threatens US National Security: What We Know

February 3, 2023
China Spy Balloon Threatens US National Security: What We Know

The United States military has recently detected a high-altitude Chinese balloon moving eastward over the central part of the country. Despite China’s claims that the balloon was not being used for surveillance purposes, the U.S. has rejected them and regards it as a surveillance vehicle. The discovery of the balloon has raised alarm among the public and sparked criticism from Republican members of Congress who have called for a tougher stance against China.

Pentagon’s Statement on Chinese Spy Balloon

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, confirmed the presence of the Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace. He stated that the balloon was at an altitude of around 60,000 feet, was maneuverable and had changed its course. However, General Ryder emphasized that the balloon posed no threat and that there was only one being tracked by the military.

Postponed Diplomatic Trip of Secretary of State Antony Blinken

The discovery of the Chinese spy balloon has resulted in Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponing his high-stakes diplomatic trip to China. The Biden administration is currently weighing a broader response to the incident. President Joe Biden declined to comment on the matter, while two of his 2024 reelection challengers, former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley, called for the immediate shooting down of the balloon.

“Limited” Intelligence Value of Chinese Spy Balloon

Intelligence Value of Chinese Spy Balloon

A senior defense official stated that the U.S. military had prepared fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the balloon if ordered. However, the Pentagon ultimately recommended against it, noting that even though the balloon was over a sparsely populated area of Montana, its size would create a debris field large enough to put people on the ground at risk. The official also stated that the U.S. had assessed that the balloon had only limited value in terms of providing intelligence that China couldn’t obtain through other technologies, such as spy satellites.

China’s Response to the Incident

China has expressed regret over the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace, citing a legal term used to refer to events beyond one’s control. The Chinese foreign ministry stated that the balloon was a civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research and had deviated from its planned course due to winds.

Impact on U.S.- China Relations

The discovery of the Chinese spy balloon has marked a new blow to already strained U.S.-China relations. Secretary of State Blinken’s postponed diplomatic trip to China was seen as an opportunity to find common ground on major disagreements, including human rights, China’s claims in the South China Sea, North Korea, Russia’s war in Ukraine, trade policy, and climate change. The meetings were scheduled to begin on Sunday and go through Monday.

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