Chinese surveillance balloons have been spotted flying over sensitive sites in recent days, prompting the US to track them. Defeating officials believe the “high-altitude surveillance balloon” belongs to China. The balloon was most recently seen above Montana. In case debris fell, the military decided not to shoot it down.
China cautioned against unverified speculation and “hype” until the facts are confirmed. As US officials revealed, the object traversed Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, Canada and eventually emerged over Billings in Montana on Wednesday. A high-ranking defence official stated that the government was ready to deploy fighter jets such as F-22s if the White House commanded to shoot it down. On Friday, Canada reported it is keeping track of what could be a second incident involving an observation blimp while not revealing which nation might be behind it. Additionally, they affirmed that they continue collaborating with the US.
Despite not providing precise details about the balloon’s size, officials said it was “sizeable”, and pilots were able to see it even from a distance. According to US media reports, another US official compared it to the size of three buses. As a result of American officials knowing exactly where this balloon is and where it will be passing over, the defence department said there was no “significantly enhanced threat” of US intelligence being compromised.
Governor Greg Gianforte expressed in a statement that he was briefed on the “deeply troubling” situation which has seen Beijing’s spying activities become increasingly aggressive and flagrant over the past five years. CIA Director William Burns at a gathering in Washington DC on Thursday did not raise the topic of this balloon, but asserted China is currently the US’ greatest geopolitical hurdle. These reports of espionage are anticipated to bring up levels of strain prior to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China next week.
On Thursday, the Financial Times reported he will also meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. Balloons are one of the oldest forms of surveillance technology. In comparison to other air surveillance devices, balloons can be operated cheaply without personnel, and they can stay airborne for long periods of time.