Chinese Spy Balloon Shot Down Amid Rising Tensions Between the U.S. and China

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

On Feb. 4, after a Chinese spy balloon sailed across the United States for three days, the balloon finally went over the Atlantic Ocean, and President Biden deemed it safe to shoot the balloon down. 

In an interview with Time, a senior defense official said, “Our number one concern was how can we take this down, while not creating undue risk to people or property.” However, the amount of time it took for the balloon to be taken down also allowed it to fly over nuclear missile silos and military bases, some of the nation’s most sensitive sites. 

According to an article from the U.S. Department of Defense, The Air Force sent F-22 stealth fighter jets from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton VA, along with F-15 fighter jets from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, MA. By mid-afternoon, the F-22 fighter jet shot it down off the coast of South Carolina. 

Three Hampton Roads-based ships were also recruited to help recover the balloon, the USS Oscar Austin and USS Philippine Sea, both from Norfolk, and the USS Carter Hall from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach. 

Time reported that the Chinese government did claim the balloon, insisting that it was simply there for “weather research,” and had gone astray. 

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Saturday concerning the balloon, saying, “The U.S. use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice. China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the company concerned, and reserves the right to make further responses if necessary.” 

USA Today reported that new information released last week by the State Department revealed the balloon was most likey being used for an espionage mission, and was carrying devices to intercept sensitive communications. 

The balloon’s spyware payload was the the size of a regional jetliner, and had “multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications,” according to a spokesperson’s statement. 

CNN reported that the remnants of the balloon are currently at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, VA, for further examination. They followed up with Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon Press Secretary, who said that the Chinese balloon was part of an extensive global surveillance program that the Beijing government has been conducting for several years and over at least five continents. He added that for the Department of Defense, “China remains the pacing challenge, and something that we’ll continue to stay focused on.” He had “no comment” on what kind of intelligence they might be collecting, including the one shot down on Saturday. 

The balloon crisis also prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel an important trip to Beijing to talk about reducing U.S.-China tensions according to news source USA Today. This would have been the first trip in six years from a high-profile government member.

According to Politico, over the past week, there have been four different occasions where the US military has shot down “unidentified objects,” the most recent one being over Lake Huron. Defense officials currently have declined to say what these three objects were, however, they did assure people there were no signs of aliens or extraterrestrial activity. 

Chinese Spy Balloon Shot Down Amid Rising Tensions Between the U.S. and China