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Chinese spy balloons have targeted India and other countries as well: WaPo report

Earlier on February 2, the Pentagon announced that it was tracking a Chinese spy balloon that was floating high over the United States. The incident accelerated tensions between the two sides. The next day, Another spy balloon was spotted flying in the skies of Latin America. 

Days after a Chinese balloon caused much political uproar in the USA, a report by The Washington Post has claimed that China has been using its surveillance balloons in many countries other than the United States.

Washington Post has claimed that the People’s Liberation Army or the Chinese PLA has been operating a vast surveillance program in countries like India, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

Even though no specific information has been provided, the report says that the surveillance balloon program operating partly out of Hainan province off China’s south coast, has been collecting information about military assets in countries and areas that are strategically important for China.

WaPo quoted unnamed US officials as saying that the Chinese had “taken an unbelievably old technology and basically married it with modern communications and observation capabilities. It’s a massive effort.”

Wendy Sherman, the Deputy Secretary of State, on Monday reportedly briefed representatives from 40 embassies over the Chinese espionage issue. The US Department of State has also sent detailed information regarding the alleged espionage to every U.S. Embassy. The information can be shared with allies and partners, the WaPo report claims.

In addition to the balloon monitored last week, at least four other balloons have reportedly been seen over Hawaii, Florida, Texas, and Guam.

This comes after the US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet on Saturday, February 4, shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon.

Reportedly, the fighter jet fired an AIM-9X missile at the balloon, which was flying at 65000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South Carolina. The Pentagon informed that the US Navy ships are now recovering the surveillance equipment from the debris, which is reportedly spread over 7 miles.

Earlier on February 2, the Pentagon announced that it was tracking a Chinese spy balloon that was floating high over the United States. The incident accelerated tensions between the two sides. The next day, Another spy balloon was spotted flying in the skies of Latin America. 

Following the development, US Secretary of Defence, Antony Blinken postponed his visit to Beijing.

The presence of this surveillance balloon in US airspace is a blatant violation of US sovereignty and international law, Blinken said in South Korea on Friday after speaking with Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat.

However, according to Blinken, he informed Wang that “the United States is committed to diplomatic engagement with China and that I plan to visit Beijing when circumstances allow.”

“Getting the surveillance asset out of our airspace is the first step. That’s what we’re focused on,” Blinken told the media.

China says, ‘Not a surveillance but civilian device’

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday that it would keep in touch with the US to manage the unexpected scenario appropriately.

“The Chinese airship is a civilian device used for meteorological and other scientific research. The airship deviated off track due to the influence of westerly winds and its limited control capacity,” it read.

“China regrets that the airship strayed into the United States by mistake due to force majeure. To properly handle this accident, China will maintain communication with the US  side,” the statement added.

Chinese spy balloon in Andaman and Nicobar Islands?

On January 6, 2022, public sightings of an unidentified high-altitude balloon over Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands were reported. A mysterious and suspicious balloon was noticed when the Indian tri-services were undertaking military exercises on the eastern island.

Andaman Sheekha, a local media outlet, had reported that a similar balloon was spotted hovering high over Port Blair. The report also raised the question of who sent the balloon over the Indian island skies and the country or agency behind using the balloon for espionage.

“Now the question is which agency has placed the object in the sky and why? If this object is not released by any agencies in Andaman then was it sent for spying? But in this age of ultra-advanced satellites, who will use a flying object to spy?” the report stated.

Japan to investigate past sightings of Chinese spy balloons

On Tuesday, Defence Minister of Japan, Yasukazu Hamada said that under existing laws, Japan has the legal right to destroy any balloon that intrudes its domestic airspace. 

At a press briefing on Monday, Yoshihio Isozaki, the deputy chief cabinet secretary, said Tokyo has launched an investigation into previous balloon sightings over Japan. In June 2020, similar aircraft was detected in a number of northern locales, including the city of Sendai. In September 2021, similar sightings were reported over the Aomori Prefecture.

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