Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Thursday evening, the Department of Defense confirmed that a large spy balloon floating over the United States was likely the property of the People’s Republic of China. This was the latest, and largely symbolic, move as China seeks to continually glean intelligence from and establish influence in the U.S.
According to a DOD press release, the balloon was sighted over Montana on Wednesday.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a Thursday press conference. “The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely.”
NEWS: U.S. Tracking High-Altitude Surveillance Balloon https://t.co/91vmqncyGX
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) February 3, 2023
An unnamed DOD official, who shared comments via the same DOD press release, said the United States had communicated its unhappiness about the incident.
“We have communicated to them the seriousness with which we take this issue,” the official said. “We have made clear we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our homeland.”
While the balloon could, and most assuredly did, capture data from sensitive locations, U.S. military officials said the information was likely redundant as Chinese spy satellites would be able to acquire the same information.
Since the balloon was unlikely to have provided the PRC with any useful new information, floated well above the paths that commercial airlines travel, and posed no immediate physical threat, defense leaders recommended President Joe Biden not order the balloon shot out of the sky.
“We did assess that it was large enough to cause damage from the debris field if we downed it over an area,” the unnamed official said.
DOD reports the balloon or one like it has entered American airspace numerous times before.
“It’s happened a handful of other times over the past few years, to include before this administration,” the official said. “It is appearing to hang out for a longer period of time, this time around, [and is] more persistent than in previous instances. That would be one distinguishing factor.”
US, CHINA TENSIONS AGAIN ON UPSWING
Thursday’s balloon incident was hardly the first Chinese encroachment into the U.S.
Chinese entities have become infamous for attempting to buy up American farmland and a bipartisan collection of U.S. lawmakers have accused TikTok of being a PRC data-mining operation, if not worse.
The timing of America’s revelation is curious as it predates Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing for talks with his counterpart and comes just days after the U.S. struck a deal for access to bases in the Philippines.
China and the U.S. also remain at odds in the world technology marketplace. This week, a coalition of nations led by the U.S. announced a ban on certain chip exports to China.
Most important, though, is the matter of Taiwanese independence, which continues to be both divisive and seemingly always on the precipice of advancing toward real hostility.
Thursday, Reuters reported CIA Director William Burns warned a gathering at Georgetown University that Chinese President Xi Jinping likely would be prepared to send his military into Taiwan within four years.
“Now, that does not mean that he’s decided to conduct an invasion in 2027, or any other year, but it’s a reminder of the seriousness of his focus and his ambition,” Reuters quoted Burns as saying.
Burns added, “Our assessment at CIA is that I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s ambitions with regard to Taiwan.”
Last week, a four-star Air Force general predicted hostilities were possible by 2025.
CONGRESSMAN TAKES AIM AT CHINESE-OWNED US SCHOOLS
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) has not been shy about his desire for America to be “on a wartime footing” as relates to China. He said as much during an interview with Yahoo! News this week.
Part of that footing, Waltz says, is ensuring China cannot meddle in U.S. military training programs like JROTC.
Today, Waltz sent a letter to Sec. Austin to request a survey of the DoD's Army, Navy, & Air Force JROTC programs located at private schools across the country to determine whether those schools are owned by a subsidiary of a foreign company.
Read more 👇https://t.co/zbGtpl457G pic.twitter.com/MGiWgY2l5k
— Congressman Waltz Press (@RepWaltzPress) January 31, 2023
While it might sound far-fetched, Waltz wrote to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this week with concerns that Chinese Communist Party-linked businesses were acquiring private schools in the U.S.
“It’s incredibly concerning that there are American private schools owned by companies with strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” Waltz said in a statement. “From Florida to New York, there is clear evidence that the ownership of these schools are linked to our greatest adversary and it’s ridiculous that we are developing potential future military leaders through JROTC programs where the CCP could be shaping school curriculum and activities.”
In his letter to the Secretary of Defense, Walz cited the New York Military Academy as an example.
“In 2015, the school was purchased by the Research Center on Natural Conservation, funded by Fang Holdings Ltd and controlled by Mo Tianquan,” Waltz wrote. “In 2013, Mo Tianquan, was a delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body convened by the CCP as part of its broader United Front work. The New York Military Academy has an Army JROTC program.”
Waltz requested Austin organize a survey of all private school JROTC programs to assess “whether their schools are owned by a subsidiary of a foreign company, and the name of the subsidiary and foreign company.”
“With the ongoing military recruitment crisis, I am concerned that any students we recruit into the service from these CCP-influenced schools will have a sympathetic view of China’s political and strategic aims,” Waltz wrote.