China balloons seen over five continents: US

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday said it has been in touch with allies over a global “fleet” of Chinese espionage balloons similar to the one shot down last week by the US Air Force. “These balloons are all part of a (Chinese)… fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One. “Over the past several years, Chinese balloons have previously been spotted all over countries across five continents,” she said. “We have been in touch with allies and partners on this issue.”

A huge white balloon carrying sophisticated equipment traversed the continental United States last week before President Joe Biden ordered the military to shoot it down just off the east coast in the Atlantic. China insists that the balloon was merely conducting weather research but the Pentagon described it as a high-tech spying operation. The balloon floated at an altitude far higher than most airplanes and crossed directly over at least one sensitive US military site.

According to US officials, countermeasures were taken to prevent the balloon’s instruments from collecting confidential information during its flight. They say that the decision to wait until the balloon reached the coast before it could be brought down by a fighter plane was the only way to ensure safety of people on the ground. Authorities are currently in the process of recovering debris out of the sea for analysis. – AFP

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