Chinese balloon, among many more, part of aerial spy program: US intel
US intel suspects the balloon is a tool of a surveillance program by the Chinese Army, one of many to collect sensitive military information.
US intelligence believes that the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, which has been shot down by the US military, was part of a vast surveillance program of China's People's Liberation Army, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing several US officials.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the US intel suspects the Chinese balloon was one of many meant to collect sensitive military information from Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
According to officials, balloons belonging to China have been located over five continents.
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"What the Chinese have done is taken an unbelievably old technology, and basically married it with modern communications and observation capabilities" to try to glean intelligence on other nations’ militaries... It’s a massive effort," one of the officials said.
Officials also relayed that allies the US believed to be a target of the ‘spy’ balloon have been contacted as well. It was reported by US media, quoting a senior administration official that a briefing was conducted by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on the matter for around 40 embassies on Monday.
"There has been great interest in this on the part of our allies and partners... Many of them recognize that they, too, may be vulnerable or susceptible to this or an object of interest to the PRC [the People's Republic of China]," the cited official said.
'Keep and exploit' it
In light of the shoot-down and China's response of possible retaliation, coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby, assured that no reason exists to escalate tensions between the US and China over the balloon, and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken's trip to China "was postponed, it was not canceled,”
The balloon was flying over the North American Aerospace Defense Command on January 28, over Alaska, before it was found floating over missile sites in Montana. Days later, after tracking, the US decided to shoot it down over the South Carolina coast.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry stated on Saturday that "China... never violated the territory and airspace of any sovereign country," adding that "some politicians and media in the United States used the (balloon) incident as a pretext to attack and smear China."
The US is intent on not only keeping the debris of the Chinese balloon but to "exploit what we recover and learn even more than we have learned", US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Monday.