Washington summons Chinese ambassador to protest spy balloon


The benefits of spy balloons – Beijing has so far not commented on the US reports of the spy balloon

There is consternation in the US after a spy balloon flew over sensitive military installations. The American side says the balloon belongs to China.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the State Department invited the Chinese ambassador to Washington to give “very clear and unequivocal message” about the spy balloon. China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The incident comes at a sensitive time for already strained US-China relations and shortly before Anthony Blinken’s planned visit to Beijing.

Craig Singleton, a senior analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in China, said such balloons had been widely used by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and were a low-cost method of intelligence gathering.

Spy balloons have flown over the United States several times in recent years, but this balloon appeared to remain in American airspace longer than on previous occasions, one of the US officials said.

According to Reuters, such balloons typically fly at 80,000-120,000 feet (24,000-37,000 meters), well above the altitude of commercial flights. The highest performing fighter jets usually do not fly above 65,000 feet (20,000 meters), although spy planes such as the U-2 have an upper operational limit of 80,000 feet or more (24,000 meters). They are much cheaper than spy planes, and can monitor a specific area for longer periods. They can also be used to enhance satellite observations.

“The United States government has located and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is currently over the continental United States,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters.

“The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and poses no military or physical threat to people on the ground,” he said.

It is noted that the decision was made not to give the green light to fighter jets to destroy the balloon, due to the potential danger to people on the ground from the debris, a senior US Defense Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The Government of Canada referred to “potential second event”, after the announcement by the USA that a spy balloon flying at a high altitude over their territory has been being monitored for some 24 hours.

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