US high altitude balloons accused of ‘illegally’ flying over China!d

BEIJING, 13 Feb 2023:

Beijing today claimed the US had sent high altitude balloons over China at least 10 times in the last year.

The claim comes amid simmering tensions after Washington shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon in early February. China insists the balloon was a civilian meteorological device.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin today claimed it was “common for US balloons to illegally enter other countries’ airspace”.

“Since last year, the US’s high-altitude balloons have undergone more than 10 illegal flights into Chinese airspace without the approval of the relevant Chinese departments,” Wenbin said.

“The first thing the US side should do is to look at itself, to change its ways, not to smear and incite confrontation.”

Wang accused the US of abusing its “technological advantages to carry out large-scale and indiscriminate wiretapping and theft of secrets from all over the world, including from its allies”.

The remarks from the Chinese foreign ministry came after state media said local maritime authorities in China’s eastern Shandong Province had detected an unidentified object in the country’s airspace.

The maritime development authority of Qingdao’s Jimo district announced the sighting of an unidentified object flying over waters near Rizhao yesterday, official newspaper The Paper reported.

The “relevant authorities” are preparing to shoot it down, the newspaper added.

Fishermen in the area have been notified by text message, The Paper said.

So far, no information has been provided on the nature of the objects or whether they were destroyed.

Unverified videos circulating on Chinese social media show a row of bright dots in the sky over a coastal area.

The foreign ministry spokesman said he had no information about three other flying objects shot down over North America in recent days.

Melissa Dalton, the US assistant secretary of defence for homeland defence and hemispheric affairs, said in a telephone press appearance that both the object shot down yesterday afternoon over Lake Huron, Michigan, as well as the two in Canada and Alaska in previous days, were destroyed as a precaution and that there has been no collateral damage in any of the operations.

The US defence department has increased surveillance of its airspace since spotting and shooting down the Chinese balloon earlier this month.

Beijing has maintained that balloon the US military shot down on Feb 4 was a civilian airship that had deviated from its original route.

US intelligence officials, however, say the airship is part of an extensive Chinese surveillance programme to collect information on military assets in several countries and was operated by China’s armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The surveillance balloons, which have operated for several years from Hainan province, off China’s southern coast, have collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China, including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, according to US intelligence.