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Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Run by Chinese Military: US Intelligence Community

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Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Run by Chinese Military: US Intelligence Community

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the suspected Chinese spy balloon that recently traveled across the continental United States is part of an extensive surveillance program operated by the Chinese military.

The link of the balloon to the People’s Liberation Army, the formal name of China’s military, was first reported Tuesday by The Washington Post and later confirmed by the U.S.-based cable news network, CNN. The balloon is part of a fleet of unmanned airships that has been partly operated out of Hainan province on China’s southern coast.

The Post quoted several unnamed U.S. officials who say the program has conducted surveillance missions in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest, including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman briefed about 150 foreign diplomats across 40 embassies about the program.

A U.S. fighter jet shot down the balloon Saturday as it traveled over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.

Officials in the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden said the balloon was a surveillance aircraft and called its flight over America an “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty” by China. Beijing has insisted that the balloon was a civilian scientific aircraft that had blown into U.S. airspace by mistake.

CNN is reporting the downed balloon is being examined by an elite team of technicians and engineers at the FBI’s training facility in Quantico, Virginia.

The discovery of the balloon prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a much-anticipated visit to Beijing designed to improve relations between the two economic giants that have soured in recent years.

A Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday China has rejected a request from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to speak with his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, since the balloon’s downing.

— VOA report