Chinese spy balloon flies over ‘sensitive’ military sites in northern US

The United States and Canada are tracking this Friday, February 3 at least one Chinese spy balloon flying at high altitude for several days over North America and sensitive military sites, an episode that rekindles tensions between Washington and Beijing a few days before a planned visit by the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken to China. Beijing for its part said to verify this American information and called not to “to turn things upside down”.

> Look at the pictures of the ball:

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The Pentagon announced Thursday the presence of the balloon in the airspace of the United States, and the Canadian government said Friday to investigate “a second potential incident”.

At the request of President Joe Biden, the Pentagon considered shooting down the balloon, but the decision was made not to do so due to the risk posed by the debris to those on the ground, an official told reporters on Thursday. senior US defense official, on condition of anonymity. “We have no doubt that the ball is from China”he specified.

“Far above commercial air traffic”

“We take steps to protect ourselves against the collection of sensitive information”he said again, while insisting on “the limited added value in terms of information gathering” of the craft, described as a fairly large balloon.

“We considered it to be large enough for the debris to cause damage” if it was shot down over a populated area, according to the same source.

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Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said the United States and Canadian Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) was monitoring the path of the balloon. “The balloon is currently flying at an altitude well above commercial air traffic. It poses no military or physical threat to people on the ground.”he said in a statement.

“Canadians are safe and Canada is taking steps to ensure the safety of its airspace, including monitoring for a potential second incident”said for its part the Ministry of Defense of Canada in a press release, without further details on this possible second balloon.

The balloon flies over “sensitive sites”

Canada did not refer to China. “Canada’s intelligence agencies are working with their U.S. partners and continue to take all necessary steps to protect Canada’s sensitive information from threats from foreign intelligence services.”was content to indicate the ministry.

“Clearly, this balloon is intended for surveillance and its current trajectory takes it over sensitive sites” including air bases and strategic missile silos, said the first American defense official, referring to the state of Montana, in the north-west of the United States.

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The balloon entered United States airspace “about two days ago” but US intelligence was already monitoring it, the source said, adding that it was not the first time the US military had seen such an intrusion.

This time, however, the balloon remained in United States airspace much longer. Fighter jets approached the craft over Montana, according to the same source.

“Destabilizing action”

Washington raised the case with the Chinese authorities. “We communicated to them the seriousness of the incident”said the American official. “We made it clear to them that we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people on our territory”.

Beijing, for its part, said on Friday that it was verifying American information that a Chinese spy balloon had been detected over North America. “A verification is in progress”told the press a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mao Ning, judging that“speculating and making a big deal out of it before the facts are even established does not help in a proper resolution of the case”.

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The “Global Times” newspaper, funded by the Chinese Communist Party but not an official organ, mocked the incident. “The ball itself is a big target”tweeted the “Global Times”. “If balloons from other countries can truly enter the continental United States unhindered, or even enter the skies over certain states, that only proves that the United States air defense system cannot is only there to look pretty and is not trustworthy”he quipped.

Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy denounced a “destabilizing action” of a China that “blatantly disregards the sovereignty of the United States”. He called Joe Biden to “not to be silent”.

Antony Blinken’s trip to China, scheduled for Sunday and Monday, is to be the first visit to the country by a US secretary of state since October 2018, as the two superpowers seek to avoid the heightened tensions between them. oppose do not degenerate into open conflict.

Among the many contentious issues are Taiwan, which China claims as an integral part of its territory, and China’s activities in Southeast Asia.

In the Philippines, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed agreements on Thursday aimed at strengthening the US military presence there in the face of the rise of China.

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Source : Nouvelobs

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