What Was on the Chinese Spy Balloon?

China spy balloon in America waiting to be shot down.

On February 9, 2023, the Biden administration revealed new details regarding the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina last week.

US officials have disclosed the capabilities of the balloon and the findings of the FBI’s analysis of the wreckage.

Was It Really a Spy Balloon?

It has been determined that the balloon was equipped with electronic surveillance technology that could monitor US communications.

Furthermore, the balloon was part of a larger fleet that was flown over more than 40 countries globally, leading to accusations of Chinese government spying operations.

Referring to the People’s Republic of China, an official said, “We know the PRC used these balloons for surveillance. High-resolution imagery from U-2 flybys revealed that the high-altitude balloon was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations.” Signals intelligence refers to gathering information through electronic means, such as communication and radar signals.

On Thursday, the FBI began to evaluate the pieces of the spy balloon that were recovered from the ocean and brought to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia. Investigators have already analysed the canopy, wiring, and a small amount of electronics, but have not yet seen the payload, which is where the bulk of the electronics would be located.

The FBI believes the balloon could be a significant piece of evidence for potential criminal charges, though the Pentagon has stated that it does not give China more surveillance capabilities than they already possess from spy satellites or other means.

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Who Is Behind the Spy Balloon?

It is believed that the order for the balloon was dispatched without the knowledge of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The balloon operation is believed to have obtained little new intelligence due to measures put in place by the US to protect sensitive information.

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Alaska Is Upset

At the committee hearing, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska expressed her anger stating, “As an Alaskan, I am so angry…Alaska is the first line of defense for America…It seems to me the clear message to China is, ‘we got free range in Alaska, because they’re going to let us cruise over that until it gets to more sensitive areas.’”

In their response, senior Biden administration officials told lawmakers that they didn’t shoot down the balloon right away when it entered Alaskan airspace because the water there was deep and cold, which would make it harder to get the balloon back.

The officials also noted that the balloon was not shot down earlier over fears of escalating military tensions with China or creating a military conflict.

The Pentagon ultimately made the call to shoot down the balloon when it felt it was safe to do so. The motivation for the balloon’s flight across the US still needs to be determined. Still, it has been suggested that senior leaders in the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party, including Xi, were also unaware.

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Increasing Tension Between US and China

A State Department official mentioned that the US is considering putting sanctions in place because the balloon’s presence in US airspace is against US sovereignty and international law.

The US is also considering taking action against entities linked to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China that helped the balloon get into US airspace. The US believes the balloon was used for electronic surveillance but has stopped it from intercepting US communications.

President Joe Biden said the balloon incident hadn’t affected US-China relations, but China is reportedly angry about the shootdown and refused a call with the Secretary of Defense.

New sanctions could cause more tension.

The State Department official said that China has flown similar balloons over more than 40 countries across five continents and that the Biden Administration is speaking with other countries about the program. The official added that China has no satisfactory explanation for why they violated US sovereignty and the airspace of other countries.

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Ash & Pri

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