US media: Biden to set new guidelines on Chinese spy balloons

It was reportedly heading for Guam and Hawaii but was blown off course.
By RFA Staff
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US media: Biden to set new guidelines on Chinese spy balloons A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.
Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP

New details have emerged about the suspected Chinese spy balloon with President Joe Biden expected to deliver remarks to address the incident while Beijing continues slamming U.S. “overreaction.”

U.S. media quoted anonymous sources as saying that President Biden plans to “deliver his most extended public remarks yet,” as soon as Thursday, about the high-altitude Chinese balloon that was shot down earlier this month off South Carolina’s coast and later announced by the military as surveillance capable.

China has repeatedly said the balloon’s entry into the U.S. airspace was “purely an unintended, unexpected and isolated event caused by force majeure,” or unforeseen circumstances.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that U.S. military and intelligence agencies had been tracking the Chinese balloon since it launched from a base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea in late January.

They believe that the balloon had an original trajectory over Guam and Hawaii, where some major U.S. military installations are located, but was blown off course by high winds. 

It took a week for it to reach the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, Canada, and then the continental United States. before being taken down by a missile on Feb. 4. It is reported that the balloon’s key parts have been recovered and are being analyzed.

Balloon recovery (1).jpg
U.S. Navy sailors recovering a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Feb. 5, 2023.  Credit: U.S. Navy via AP

Three other yet-to-be-identified objects were later shot down by the U.S. military in Canada and the U.S.

In his remarks, Biden is expected to set out the procedure in relation to handling unidentified flying objects. The president had been criticized for not acting sooner when the spy balloon first entered U.S. airspace. 

‘U.S. overreaction the only pattern’

The U.S. government has added six Chinese companies to the list of export restrictions in light of the balloon incident, a move condemned by Beijing as “illegal sanctions on Chinese companies and institutions.”

Washington said China operates a “fleet of balloons” and has similarly violated the sovereignty of “some 40 countries across five continents” by going into their airspaces “with the express point of collecting intelligence.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday told reporters in Yukon, where he inspected the search for an unidentified object shot down at the weekend, that "obviously there is a pattern" to the objects flying over North America.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry hit back at the assessment, saying “other than the U.S. overreaction, we don’t see any pattern here.”

Spokesman Wang Wenbin also urged Japan, which also suspects China to have flown surveillance balloons over its territory, to “adopt an objective and just position, view this unexpected incident caused by force majeure in the right way, and stop following the U.S.'s suit in dramatizing it.”


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