Matt Bush, FISM News
The Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina over the weekend has been tied to a major surveillance program run by China’s military.
“I can assure this was not for civilian purposes. We are 100% clear on that,” Air Force Brig. General Pat Ryder told reporters at a recent press conference.
Ryder was then asked if, based on China’s continued assertion that the balloon aircraft was simply a civilian balloon that got off track, the Pentagon would release information backing his assertion that it was “100% clear” that it was a military surveillance balloon.
Okay. So I’ll give you the facts. Again, based on what we know and have observed about this balloon, it is a surveillance balloon. It was an intelligence-collection capability. You know, a question that I would ask myself is if, in fact, it was a civilian balloon, a weather balloon, and it was approaching a sovereign nation, about to enter their airspace, a responsible nation would have put out some kind of public statement saying, ‘Hey, heads up. This is heading your way. We just want to let you know.’ The PRC did not do that. They didn’t respond until after they were called out. I’ll just leave it at that.
While the U.S. continues to be clear on its belief that the balloon was in fact a military spy balloon used for surveillance purposes, China has not changed its stance that it was a civilian balloon that veered off course.
“We have made it clear that this was entirely an accident caused by force majeure,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning.
While the message has stayed the same, the tone from China has begun to shift from conciliatory to accusatory as the U.S. grows bolder in its assertions.
“It is irresponsible,” Mao said at a briefing. “The latest accusations may be part of the U.S. side’s information warfare against China.” Ming has also called the U.S. action of shooting down the balloon an “armed attack” that was “unacceptable and irresponsible” while asserting that the action gives China the right to “take further actions.”
CHINA’S LARGER SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM
In the aftermath of the balloon being shot down, it has become clear that there is a much bigger Chinese surveillance program at play that the Pentagon has been observing since at least 2018. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken confirmed that he had briefed dozens of other countries on the program and said at a news conference that the U.S. was not the only target.
He also revealed that the U.S. is gathering more information “by the hour” from balloon material recovered off the coast of South Carolina.
“We are now learning more about the scale of this Chinese balloon surveillance program, which U.S. intelligence and the Pentagon have been observing for several years,” Ryder told reporters. He said that the program has been observed “operating over at least five continents in regions like Latin America, South America, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Europe.”
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman briefed diplomats approximately 40 nations, including India, Japan and Australia, over the surveillance balloon, and revealed that China had “violated the sovereignty” of nations accross the globe with similar flight pats.
Other balloons have made their way into U.S. airspace over the past few years with the Pentagon citing four examples including the one shot down over the weekend. None of the other balloons have been close to the scope of the most recent one.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) called this an “unprecedented act” and said, “We have never seen this. There is no comparison to anything that may have happened up to this point.”
China continues to maintain that the balloon was merely a weather device and condemned the U.S. actions as an overstep in foreign relations.