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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

CNN report: “Chinese spy balloon shot down”

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According to the US, this is a Chinese spy balloon.
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A Reuters photographer also said he saw the balloon being launched and losing altitude. According to a document, the FAA has closed an area of ​​about 100 square miles over the Atlantic Ocean and the South Carolina coast to civilian flights.

The alleged spy balloon sighted over the United States had put a damper on efforts to improve relations between the two great powers. A trip to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been postponed, according to the US President’s Office. The Beijing Foreign Ministry had said it was a civilian research balloon. China regrets that he drifted into US airspace.

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Blinken called the “surveillance balloon” entering US airspace “unacceptable” and “irresponsible.” China firmly rejected the allegations on Saturday, speaking of a research balloon that was thrown off course by “force majeure”.

“We do not accept baseless speculation and propaganda,” Beijing’s Foreign Ministry quoted top foreign policy official Wang Yi as saying with Blinken on Saturday from his phone call the day before. The US Secretary of State has canceled his visit to Beijing, which was expected for Sunday. It would have been the first visit by a US Secretary of State to China since 2018. According to media reports, Blinken was also to be received by China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping.

Although the expectations of the visit were not high, there were hopes that it would calm the turbulent and difficult relations. Blinken underlined that the US wanted to keep the communication channels to Beijing open and that the visit should be made up for soon “if conditions allow”. The world expects the US and China to handle their relations responsibly, Blinken said in Washington.

Meanwhile, according to US information, another possible espionage balloon is hovering over Latin America. “We’re seeing reports of a balloon flying over Latin America. We’re finding out if that’s another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said in Washington. Initially, there was no information about the second balloon from Beijing.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the balloon over the United States was used “for meteorological and other scientific research.” “Due to the westerly wind drift and limited control options, the airship has deviated far from the planned route.” After the incident had been “regretted” in an unusually defensive manner the day before, the spokesman went on the offensive again: “Some politicians and media in the US have used the situation to attack China and bring it into disrepute.”

The Pentagon did not accept this. “We know it’s a surveillance balloon,” Ryder said. The Ministry of Defense announced the sighting of the first balloon on Thursday evening. The balloon was sighted over the US state of Montana, Central America and also Missouri. He is said to be flying in US airspace for a few more days. The Pentagon spokesman contradicted the Chinese representation that the flying object was very manoeuvrable.

Such balloons are considered important observation platforms. Unlike satellites, they can stay in one place and don’t have to make a new orbit around the earth to take more pictures, experts say. You could observe from a closer distance, are difficult to detect for radar. They could also intercept communications. The navigation options are significantly improved today, so that they no longer depend solely on the wind.

The fact that the balloon flew near the US Air Force base in Montana, where Minuteman III ICBMs with nuclear warheads are stored, also caused a stir in the USA. However, it was unclear why China would undertake such a provocation just before Blinken’s eagerly awaited visit to Beijing. Both sides had expressed their strong interest in the visit and noticeably reduced the rhetoric.

The announcement of the visit was perhaps the only tangible result of the summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit of the great economic powers (G20) in November on the Indonesian island of Bali. The balloon affair is now also overshadowing preparations for Biden’s appearance in Congress on Tuesday, where he will deliver his annual State of the Union address.

While Biden has not yet commented on the balloon, his administration is coming under increasing pressure. There were also calls to shoot down the balloon. House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said the balloon should never have entered US airspace. Ex-President Donald Trump demanded: “Shoot the balloon.” However, the Pentagon initially rejected it. The falling debris could pose a danger to people on the ground.

US Republicans called for an even tougher stance on China. Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy warned that Biden must not remain silent about the “brazen disregard for US sovereignty”. Ex-Pentagon boss Mark Esper, who was in office under Trump, spoke of a “brazen action” on the CNN TV channel. “The Chinese have been spying on us for decades.” The USA would have to make it clear that they would not put up with this.

The relationship between the two rivals is extremely tense. China accuses the US of wanting to stem its rise and pursuing a new Cold War. China’s backing for Russia’s war in Ukraine, Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, the trade war, US export controls for high technology and threats against democratic Taiwan, which Beijing sees as part of the People’s Republic, are a source of contention. A senior US general recently thought a war with China over Taiwan was possible as early as 2025.

Source: Nachrichten

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