How dangerous was the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon flying over US? Did Beijing target India, other countries in the past?

It turns out that the Chinese balloon floating over the US was not an isolated incident. Officials in the Biden administration claim that Beijing runs a vast surveillance programme and countries like India and Japan have been targeted.The Chinese “spy” balloon has been brought down but it continues to overshadow geopolitics. Turns out, the balloon incident was not an isolated one. As the debris was retrieved off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the United States reiterated that the floating balloon was far from harmless. It was not monitoring the weather as China has claimed, says Washington.

What happened after the balloon was shot down?

The balloon was shot down by the F-22 fighter jet, the world’s most advanced and expensive military aircraft, on Saturday. The US military has started collecting the remnants of the high-altitude surveillance balloon. Navy divers have been pulling pieces of the downed Chinese spy balloon from the depths of the ocean floor, using sophisticated reconnaissance drones dubbed the Kingfish and the Swordfish to locate the debris.After collecting all of the balloon’s white fabric and shell structure found floating on the surface, the Navy shifted to an all-underwater search for parts of the massive balloon.

What do we know about the balloon?

The balloon was about 200 feet tall with the payload portion comparable in size to regional airliners and weighing hundreds or maybe even thousands of pounds, according to a report by the BBC. It was not a weather device which went astray but was used for snooping on the US.

Citing American officials, a report in The Washington Post, said that the US believes the balloon was part of a larger surveillance programme, which was being operated from the Hainan province in China.

“The United States was not the only target of this broader programme,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who cancelled his state visit to China after the balloon fiasco said. He also told the media that the country had information gathered from the debris of the balloon, which it had shared with several other nations.

An official told The Post that the Chinese have “taken an unbelievably old technology, and basically married it with modern communications and observation capabilities” to try to gaher intelligence on militaries of other nations, adding that “it’s a massive effort”.

“We’ve learned a lot about these balloons and how to track them,” Gen Ryder said, adding that the US was now confident it can be “on the lookout for these kinds of capabilities”. He said that the objects were used for surveillance missions. There were “variations” in

According to the US, the balloons have operated over its territory on at least four occasions. Three suspected such Chinese spy balloons reportedly flew over the country during Donald Trump’s presidency but went undetected.

Reports in The New York Times and Bloomberg said that they had classified the balloons as UFOs initially.

Gen VanHerck, the Pentagon official responsible for US airspace defence, said that there was a gap in military intelligence back then. “It’s my responsibility to detect threats to North America. I will tell you that we did not detect those threats,” he said on Monday.

Which other nations has China spied on using the balloon?

US Defence Department spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told the media that it believed that similar balloons had operated over North and South America, South East Asia, East Asia and Europe.
According to the US, the surveillance balloon project was used to target several countries including India, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Phillippines.

The balloon surveillance project has collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China, The Post reports.

The US held briefings in Washington and Beijing with foreign diplomats from 40 nations about the Chinese spy balloon. “We want to make sure that we are sharing as much as we can with countries around the world who may also be susceptible to these types of operations,” a senior Biden administration official said, according to a report by Reuters.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman briefed nearly 150 foreign diplomats across 40 embassies on Monday, the official said. In Beijing, the US embassy gathered foreign diplomats on Monday and Tuesday to present US findings about the balloon.

Did China spy on India?

A report in The Financial Times published on Monday says that in “January 2022 one of the white orbs” was spotted over India but it does not mention where.

Local media reports from Andaman said that a balloon was seen over the islands. The area is strategically important to India as it houses important military installations.

An article in the local publication Andaman Sheekha on 6 January 2022 said that “the white sphere-shaped object, looking somewhat like a weather balloon, attracted many eyeballs because of its size and shiny white surface”. It sounds a lot like the balloon shot down in the US.

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