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Inflating Tensions with China

A suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over the northern US is being tracked by the Pentagon. US defense officials say that the balloon has been flying well above the average commercial airline for a couple of days, with a flight path over numerous “sensitive” sites. The Pentagon says it is almost certain that the balloon belongs to the Chinese Communist Party, and the only thing which has prevented the balloon from being shot down is concern over the debris. Spokesmen from Beijing stated that “It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes,” and continued to ask for cooler heads to prevail in what China would like to say is an innocent mistake. 

NEWS ROLLUP: Inflating Tensions with China

By News Rollup; February 3, 2023

On Thursday, the United States military reported that it is closely monitoring a high-altitude balloon believed to be operated by the Chinese government for intelligence purposes. The balloon, which was first detected in November 2022, has been flying at an altitude of around 60,000 feet, well above commercial air traffic lanes, and is believed to be carrying sensors and other surveillance equipment. Defense officials say the balloon’s intended flight path seems to be above numerous “sensitive sights,” reinforcing the conclusion that the balloon’s intended objective is to gather intelligence.

The discovery of the balloons raised concerns about China’s military intentions and the extent of its intelligence-gathering operations. Although the military has been tracking the balloon for some time, defense officials state that the only reason it hasn’t been destroyed is the concern over debris falling to the earth. 

The Chinese government commented on the balloon, saying, “It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes,” and continued on stating that the Balloon’s flight path is coincidental and far off course where it should be and warned of “deliberate speculation.” 

The discovery of the balloon is the latest in a series of incidents that have heightened tensions between the U.S. and China. Recently, US defense officials have warned about the possibility of a full-on war with China in the coming years. Additionally, Beijing has been increasing its incursions into Taiwan’s airspace, despite pledges by the US to defend Taiwan’s independence at any cost. While it remains unclear what the balloon’s intended purpose is, officials say that although it presents a risk, the intelligence it is gathering could be acquired in numerous ways, such as low orbit satellites.

The discovery of the Chinese spy balloon comes days before Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to travel to Beijing to meet his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang. With the satellite revealed, Blinken could have the upper hand in the initial round of negotiations. However, despite the US’ advantage, the balloon’s discovery has also heated up the intensity of what will already be a nail-biting meeting. 

Photo: Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP

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