A Chinese spy balloon and a US Air Force fighter jet over the Atlantic Ocean, February 4, 2023.
Washington – A Chinese balloon that shot down an American fighter jet off the US coast on Saturday, according to The Washington Post (WP), is part of Beijing's extensive surveillance program, with the help of which China has been collecting information on military installations abroad for years. Washington, which last week described the balloon as espionage, informed diplomats from four dozen countries about its findings on Monday. Beijing claims the balloon was meteorological.
According to the newspaper, similar spy balloons sent from China have already been spotted over five continents. But Beijing especially often uses them for espionage in Asian countries such as Japan, India, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan. “The Chinese have taken an incredibly old technology and combined it with modern communication and surveillance capabilities,” one American official told the newspaper.
Exactly how many such balloons China has is not yet clear. According to the Americans, however, since 2018 alone, it has carried out dozens of similar missions, during which the balloons operate at a height of approximately 18 to 24 kilometers above the surface, i.e. significantly higher than the flight of commercial aircraft. The United States is aware of at least four other Chinese balloons that have flown over its territory in recent years.
Washington has already informed all its diplomatic missions around the world about the program, and on Monday, through Deputy State Department Wendy Sherman, dozens of its allies. “Our allies and partners have shown great interest in this,” commented one of the senior representatives of the US administration.