Beijing said that the Chinese spy balloon looming over the U.S. was being used for "meteorological research" (Image via Rob Schneider/Twitter and Marcus Hubbard/Twirrer)

What is the Chinese spy balloon looking for? China mocks chaotic hype over 'weather' balloon

The U.S. Pentagon said a Chinese spy balloon was recently spotted across the state of Montana, and was allegedly seen looming over a “number of sensitive sites.”

As per the BBC, the balloon passed through Canada and flew over Alaska's Aleutian Islands before appearing over the city of Billings in Montana on Wednesday.


U.S. Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder confirmed the sighting of the Chinese spy balloon and said the government tracked the alleged surveillance tool for several days. He also mentioned that the balloon was “traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic” and did not present a “military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

Authorities also confirmed that the U.S. was taking steps to “protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information” while the balloon loomed above the U.S. sky.

Chinese Spy Balloon over Asheville NC. 7:45 am. The boy thought it was Fortnite. #ChinaSpyBalloon

Peter Layton, a former Royal Australian Air Force officer and a fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in Australia, discussed what the Chinese spy balloon could be looking for while speaking to CNN. He said that the balloon was possibly collecting information on U.S. communication systems:

“Some of these systems use extremely high frequencies that are short range, can be absorbed by the atmosphere and being line-of-sight are very directional. It’s possible a balloon might be a better collection platform for such specific technical collection than a satellite.”

Retired U.S. Air Force and CNN military analyst Col. Cedric Leighton echoed similar thoughts and said:

“They could be scooping up signals intelligence, in other words, they’re looking at our cell phone traffic, our radio traffic.”

Layton added that intelligence data collected by the balloon could also be relayed in real time via a satellite link back to China.


However, Blake Herzinger, an expert in Indo-Pacific defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, said that it is also possible that the balloon had no secrets or intention of spying and flew into the U.S. by mistake:

“There’s at least some possibility that this was a mistake and the balloon ended up somewhere Beijing didn’t expect.”

Amid the ongoing speculation surrounding the alleged Chinese spy balloon, China claimed that the device was “mainly meteorological” and mocked American officials for “hyping” the situation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also postponed a planned trip to China after Beijing admitted that it owned the balloon.


A look into China’s response to Chinese spy balloon

China mocked "hype" over balloon in America (Image via Alejandor Alvarez/Twitter and Getty Images)

The alleged Chinese spy balloon, a suspected surveillance tool, has continued to make news ever since it was spotted floating across Montana sky this week. The balloon also created a state of panic in the U.S. and led to diplomat Antony Blinken canceling his China trip.

On Friday, China’s foreign ministry issued an official statement and confirmed that the balloon originated from Beijing. However, they claimed that the alleged Chinese spy balloon was “mainly meteorological” and entered American airspace unintentionally:

“It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capabilities, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure.”

Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi called out the “hype” over the device and said:

“China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law. We do not accept any groundless speculation and hype.”

He continued:

“In the face of unexpected situations, what both parties need to do is to maintain concentration, communicate in a timely manner, avoid misjudgments, and manage and control differences.”

The Global Times, which is known as a mouthpiece for Beijing, published an article with similar sentiments and said that America’s response to the alleged Chinese spy balloon was “utterly chaotic.”

The publication also claimed that the US’ reaction to the balloon has caused Sino-American relations to become further tensed:

“Before being clear of the facts, the US military and media accused China of spying, and this incident has brought the US' recent hyping of the ‘China threat’ to a new level, with some Chinese analysts saying the stunt, which was not backed by concrete proof, may bring new tensions to China-US relation.”

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning issued another statement, saying that Beijing was still “learning about the verification of the matter.” However, they also mocked the “hype” surrounding the Chinese spy balloon and said:

“I want to emphasise that before the facts are clear, any speculation and hype are not conducive to the solution of the problem. China is a responsible country and has always abided by international law. We have no intention of violating the territory or airspace of any sovereign state.”

However, a senior official at the Pentagon rejected Beijing’s claim about the balloon was only serving the purpose of meteorological research. Several defense officials allegedly said that the Chinese spy balloon flew over “a number of sensitive” military sites, including the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

The U.S. Pentagon also announced that a second Chinese spy balloon was allegedly spotted moving across Latin America. However, no details on the movement of the device have been made available so far.


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Edited by
Barsha Roy
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