US looks to sanction Chinese balloon manufacturer
The United States considers sanctioning the company that made the alleged surveillance Chinese balloon, and manufacturers of high-altitude balloons in China have started denying their connection to the incident.
The Biden administration has indicated it is considering imposing sanctions on the Chinese balloon manufacturer, as a retaliation for its overflight.
The US government alleges it is certain that the balloon's maker “has a direct relationship with China’s military and is an approved vendor of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], according to information published in an official procurement portal for the PLA," a senior US State Department official told US media on Thursday.
The US has also sanctioned several other Chinese companies with alleged links to the PLA (People's Liberation Army), consequently, Chinese manufacturers of high-altitude balloons have started denying the balloon was theirs by issuing statements.
Read: US aims to decouple from China by restricting access to dollar: NYT
In a statement on Wednesday, one of the balloon-maker companies, the Zhuzhou Rubber Research & Design Institute Co, said the balloon "is not related" to them.
Another similar company, Guangzhou Double-One Weather Equipment, also declared that even though they are able to make similar balloons, the balloon that was shot down by the US wasn't made by their company.
Zhuzhou Rubber dominates China's markets, exports to more than 40 countries, and is famous for making high-performance, high-flying weather balloons. The company supplies the China Meteorological Administration too.
According to a report in Chinese media, Zhuzhou’s balloons are made using an improved formula that allows the balloon to stay aloft at high altitudes for several hours.
However, the balloon that drifted over Canada and the US was aloft for over a week. The balloon exceeded all capabilities of similar balloons, according to US media, while China says that this does not mean it couldn’t have been a weather balloon.
According to reports, the Chinese balloon was made out of plastic and was similar to those US company Raven Aerostar makes for US space agency NASA.
It is worth mentioning that Raven Aerostar had one of its own balloons over Memphis, Tennessee, mistaken for the Chinese balloon, during the Chinese balloon’s transit over the US.
NASA uses the company’s balloons for stratospheric research, and Google uses its balloons to provide internet access to rural areas.
Other balloon makers in China have not yet given any comments about whether or not their balloons are related to the one shot down by the US.
US shoots down unidentified object over Northern Alaska: Pentagon
The United States shot down on Friday afternoon a high-altitude object over Alaska after assessing it could be a "threat to civilian aircraft," White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday.
The unidentified object went down on the northern side of Alaska, close to the Canadian border and the Arctic Ocean, Kirby said, adding that the Pentagon had been keeping an eye on the object, which was smaller than the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon that the US shot down last week.
It is worth mentioning that diplomatic relations have declined for the past week since the balloon incident, which caused a row, with the US claiming it was a 'spy' balloon and China stating it was for research purposes.
The balloon flew over the US' North American Aerospace Defense Command on January 28 over Alaska before it got detected 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."
Following the incident of the discovery of the balloon, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was scheduled to visit China, postponed his visit just hours before he was supposed to depart for Beijing.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing several US officials, that the US intelligence claims that the Chinese balloon was part of a vast surveillance program of China's People's Liberation Army.
Also, White House Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre claimed that Chinese balloons have been spotted in other nations on five different continents before, and that the United States is discussing and coordinating this matter with its allies.