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Chinese spy balloon was equipped with antennas and sensors, the programme has spied on 40 countries on 5 continents, says US govt

On Thursday (February 9), senior Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials said that a forensic examination of the debris was underway and that they had only examined small electronics, wiring and the balloon canopy until then.

Days after a US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, the Biden administration informed that the latter was equipped with sensors and antennas to collect communications and intelligence.

According to a senior State Department official, the surveillance balloon carried multiple antennas capable of “pinpointing the location of communications.” Besides, it was equipped with large solar panels to provide power to intelligence collection sensors.

Meanwhile, officials from Pentagon testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee and informed that they did not deem the Chinese surveillance balloon a threat when it crossed Alaska.

They further added that no analysis was done about the debris that would fall if the balloon was shot down. The officials emphasised that the risk to civilians on the ground was ‘considerable’ as the surveillance balloon was 200 feet tall.

On Thursday (February 9), senior Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials said that a forensic examination of the debris was underway and that they had only examined small electronics, wiring and the balloon canopy until then.

The debris, now lying in the Atlantic Ocean, is being transported to an FBI laboratory to discard the saltwater and process it for further examination.

Action against manufacturers of Chinese surveillance balloon

The United States government is also mulling action again companies and entities, responsible for the development of the Chinese surveillance balloon programme, which has allegedly spied on 40 countries across 5 continents.

Reportedly, a total of 6 Chinese companies with ties to the Communist government are behind the programme. The Biden administration is planning to add them to the entities list of the Commerce Department and prevent businesses from working with them.

An official informed, “The company also advertises balloon products on its website and hosts videos from past flights, which appear to have overflown at least the US airspace and airspace of other countries. These advertised balloon videos seemingly have similar flight patterns as the balloons we have been discussing this week.”

Reactions of US lawmakers to the fiasco

While speaking about the matter, Republican Senator Kevin Cramer said, “I’m confident that they did everything they’re supposed to, based on what they knew and what historical information they had…So I’m satisfied with that much.”

Meanwhile, all US lawmakers are not convinced with the manner the said foreign aggression was handled. Senator Lisa Murkowski said, “At what point do we say a surveillance balloon, a spy balloon coming from China is a threat to our sovereignty? It should be the minute it crosses the line, and that line is Alaska.”

The Background of the Controversy

The Pentagon announced on February 2 this year that it was tracking a Chinese spy balloon that was floating high over the United States. The incident accelerated tensions between the two sides.

According to defence authorities, the balloon has been monitored for a few days after it entered US territory and began flying at a great height.

It has been traced recently when it passed over Montana, which is home to some of the US’s silo-based nuclear missiles and has been observed using a variety of techniques, including manned planes. Flights from Billings Logan airport were halted on Wednesday out of caution.

Another spy balloon was spotted flying in the skies of Latin America on February 3. In a statement, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson said, “We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it as another Chinese surveillance balloon.”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Antony Blinken postponed his visit to Beijing in response to a separate high-altitude Chinese balloon intruding into US airspace.

On February 4 afternoon, an US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, which had become the bone of contention between the two countries.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
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