Watch: Moment Chinese ‘spy balloon’ is shot down over Carolina
A high-altitude Chinese spy balloon that the US shot down after it traveled across the US last week is part of a “larger” surveillance and intelligence-gathering operation in China, according to Pentagon officials.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the Pentgon’s comments amount to “information warfare against China,” after Chinese authorities insisted that the balloon was a civilian research balloon that drifted off course.
US military and intelligence officials revealed this week that at least four other balloons were spotted above the US in recent years, including three times during former president Donald Trump’s administration.
In remarks alongside Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg from Washington DC on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the US and other world leaders are studying the scale and scope of China’s surveillance program and its latest balloon, which Mr Blinken said “violated international law and US sovereignty” with “an irresponsible act”.
Mr Stoltenberg said that the balloon incident “confirms a pattern of Chinese behaviour” using “different types of intelligence and surveillance platforms” around the world.
Military was able to block balloon’s intelligence collection, defense official tells Senate committee
Melissa Dalton, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, provided a Senate subcommittee with a timeline of the US military’s response and communications with the White House over the course of several days following the discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon entering the nation’s airspace.
She said once it was observed, the military was able to protect against intelligence collection, which was “relatively straight-forward since we knew where the balloon was”.
The White House initially asked for options to shoot down the balloon, which the military advised against until it was over water and its debris field did not pose a threat to people below. Officials consulted with Nasa to get an idea of the size of its potential debris field. The balloon was 200-feet tall “with a jetliner-sized payload,” Ms Dalton said.
On Friday, President Joe Biden was briefed on the plan to shoot the balloon once it made its way over water the following day.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 16:46
House unanimously approves GOP resolution to condemn the balloon
A resolution from Republican US Rep Michael McCaul calls the ballon incident “a brazen violation” of US sovereignty, echoing similar language used by President Joe Biden, White House officials and the US secretary of state.
Earlier this week, Republicans considered introducting a measure that would have condemned the president’s response, but the resolution that lawmakers unanimously supported in a vote of 419-0 on Thursday calls on the administration to provide the House with a “comprehensive briefing on this incident.”
The nonbinding resolution calls for a “complete account” of previous balloon intrusions, an assessment of the data the balloon was potentially able to collect and transmit, and a timeline of events, including the timing of the president’s initial decision to shoot it down and the military’s advisement to do so.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 16:33
Senators return to a key question: Why wait to shoot down the balloon?
Several senators on a subcomittee examining the US military’s response to the balloon and China’s surveillance operations have asked why it took several days for officials to agree to shoot it down.
President Joe Biden had ordered the military to shoot it down as soon as safely possible, though military officials – believing there was no imminent physical threat from the balloon – advised to wait until it was over water where it didn’t endanger anything below and could be more easily recovered.
“A key part of the calculus for this operation was the ability to salvage, understand and exploit the capabilities of the balloon,” according to Melissa Dalton, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs.
She said that shooting it down over Alaska, where it was first observed, could have brought it down into ice cover or waters that are thousands of feet deep in temperatures that would have made recovery and salvage “very dangerous,” she told the committee.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 16:12
Full story: Chinese spy balloon had communication and intelligence tools, officials reveal
Chinese authorities have dismissed the Pentagon’s revelation that a high-altitude surveillance balloon shot down by the US military was part of China’s “larger” intelligence-gathering program, but the US Department of State believes the vessel was part of a Chinese military fleet that has performed similar operations in 40 countries across five continents.
In recent days, press reports and military officials have unveiled more details about the scale and scope of China’s surveillance operations, which include at least four other balloon sightings above the US in recent years, including three times during former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 15:48
Today: Defense Department officials to brief Senate committee
Officials at the US Department of Defense will brief a Senate subcommittee on “China’s High Altitude Surveillance Efforts Against the United States” at 10.15am ET.
Witnesses will include Melissa Dalton, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs; Jedidiah Royal, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs; Vice Admiral Sara Joyner, the director of force structure, resources and assessments at the Joint Staff; and Lt Gen Douglas Sims II, the director for operations at the Joint Staff.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 15:15
Balloon ‘clearly’ used for intelligence and was part of military fleet that traveled across 40 countries, State Department says
The Chinese balloon shot down by the US military on Saturday was part of a military fleet of surveillance balloons that have flown over more than 40 countries across five continents, according to the State Department.
Equipment on the recovered aircraft “was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather balloons,” officials said on Thursday.
The balloon was equipped with antennas that were “likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications,” while solar panels on board were large enough to power “multiple active intelligence collection sensors,” according to the agency.
US officials are exploring “action” against Chinese entities that supported the balloon’s construction, after officials said that they believed that a company that manufactured the balloon has ties to China’s military.
“We will also look at broader efforts to expose and address the [PRC’s] larger surveillance activities that pose a threat to our national security, and to our allies and partners,” according to the State Department.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 15:00
Chinese authorities say Pentagon comments amount to ‘information warfare’ against China
Chinese authorities have dismissed the Pentagon’s revelation that a surveillance balloon shot down by the US on Saturday was part of China’s “larger” intelligence-gathering program.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the comments amount to “information warfare against China.”
During a Thursday briefing, she said that recent comments from Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder “may be part of the US side’s information warfare against China.”
In recent days, press reports and military officials have provided a wider look at the balloon programme and evidence of a larger network of surveillance balloons, including sightings this week in Latin America and at least three times during President Donald Trump’s administration.
“We acted responsibly and prudently to protect our interests” by shooting down the aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean near the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.
Officials now are “anaylsing to learn more about the surveillance programme” by examining the remains of the balloon recovered by US Navy sailors,” he added.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 14:32
At least five balloons discovered above US in recent years, according to officials
Chinese surveillance balloons were observed in the US at least three times during the Trump administartion – and twice during the Biden administration, including the recent episode in which the president ordered a balloon to be shot down.
The New York Times reports that spy balloons observed in the previous administration were initially classified as unidentified aerial phenomena, officials told the newspaper.
Earlier this week, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration was able to retroactively identify the presence of Chinese balloons in US airspace during Trump’s term after the president worked to enhance the nation’s “surveillance of our territorial airspace”.
“We enhanced our capacity to be able to detect things that the Trump administration was unable to detect,” he said.
Glen David VanHerck, US Air Force general and commander of the United States Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told reporters this week that “we did not detect those threats” in previous years.”
“And that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out,” he told reporters on 6 February.
“Day to day we do not have the authority to collect intelligence within the [US],” he added. “In this case, specific authorities were granted to collect intelligence against the balloon specifically, and we utilize specific capabilities to do that.”
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 14:00
What federal investigators hope to recover from the shot-down balloon
Defense officials told CNN that the US has gained some insight into the balloon’s transit and the kinds of signals it was emitting as it traveled.
But a study of the balloon’s hardware and contents that is underway with FBI assistance will help officials learn more about what exactly it was capable of.
“When the balloon is in our hands, we can look at the technology, we can rebuild the supply chain, find out who helped build it, what components were important to it,” US Rep Jim Himes, the top Democratic lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee, told the network.
“Obviously you can tell its functions and specifications. There’s a very high intelligence value in having it,” he said.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 13:00
US Secretary of State: China ‘violated international law and US sovereignty’ with spy balloon
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China “violated international law and US sovereignty” with “an irresponsible act” by sending a surveillance balloon to the United States.
In remarks alongside Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg from Washington DC on Wednesday, Mr Blinken said that the US and other world leaders are studying the scale and scope of China’s surveillance programme.
Their discussion examined the “systemic and tactical challenges that China presents” to Nato and “the broader international system,” Mr Blinken said.
“We acted responsibly and prudently to protect our interests” by shooting down the aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean near the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, Mr Blinken said.
Officials now are “anaylsing to learn more about the surveillance programme” by examining the remains of the balloon recovered by US Navy sailors.
He said that the world “expects China and the United States to manage our relationship responsibly”, and he said the US also urges China “to do the same”.
Alex Woodward9 February 2023 12:00