On Feb. 2, Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, stated that “cases of such activity by balloons have been observed previously in recent years. Once the balloon was located, the US government took immediate action to prevent the collection of sensitive information“.
According to the reconstructions of an increasing number of media, the Chinese aircraft was part of one wider Chinese initiative involving several spy balloons. The senior Defense Department official had claimed that spy balloons had flown over the country’s territory “a handful of other times in recent yearseven before this administration”.
The United States and other countries may not be fully prepared to counter the continued use of spy balloons, as the use of technology for spying purposes has become increasingly common in recent decades. less and less common. “Our assessment is that this ball has limited added value in terms of intelligence gathering” compared to what China could get from satellite images, the Defense Department official said on February 2. However, before being shot down, the Chinese balloon passed near some US military bases and other sensitive sites.
Countermeasures and tensions
Tannehill reports that the counter-surveillance measures adopted for spy balloons also include the balloon physical movement of the equipment or personnel involved outside the field of view of the instrument, the rearrangement of equipment and, if possible, the sensor sabotage (The U.S. Department of Defense declined the request for Wired US to investigate the measures taken by the country to prevent espionage activities).
“The thing is, we know it’s a surveillance balloon, and I can’t be more specific than that – He said General Pat Ryder to reporters on February 3 –. We know that the ball has violated US airspace and international lawwhich is unacceptable, and we have communicated this directly to China at multiple levels“.
“The Chinese side regrets the unintentional entry of the airship into the airspace of the United States due to force majeure. China will continue to communicate with the United States and properly handle this unexpected situation“, China’s Foreign Ministry said before the shooting down.
Nevertheless, the visibility of the accident will only be able to exacerbate the tensions between the United States and China. As Tannehill points out, “it’s hard to pretend there isn’t espionage when [l’aeromobile, ndr] floats over Kansas City and ordinary people say, ‘Oh look, it’s the Chinese spy balloon’“.
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