US intelligence services, made up of 16 government agencies, have concluded that the suspected Chinese spy balloon that recently traveled through the skies of the US is part of an extensive surveillance program operated by the Chinese military.
The connection between the balloon and the People’s Liberation Army, the formal name of the Chinese armed forces, was first reported on Tuesday by The Washington Post and then confirmed by CNN.
The balloon would be part of a fleet of unmanned aircraft that has been operated partly out of Hainan province, on China’s south coast.
Several US officials who asked not to be named told the Washington Post that the program has carried out surveillance missions in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest, including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Wendy Sherman, US Assistant Secretary of State, has briefed some 150 foreign diplomats in 40 embassies about the program.
An American fighter plane shot down the balloon on saturday while traveling over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.
Officials from President Joe Biden’s administration claimed it was a surveillance balloon and described its flight over the US as an “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty” by China. Beijing has insisted that the balloon was a civilian scientific aircraft that entered US airspace by mistake.
CNN reported that the downed balloon is being examined by an elite team of technicians and engineers at the FBI training facility in Quantico, Virginia.
The discovery of the balloon led the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to cancel his long-awaited visit to Beijing that was intended to improve relations between the two economic giants that have deteriorated in recent years.
A Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday China had turned down a request by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to speak to his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe since the downing of the balloon.
[Con información de Reuters]
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