The balloon incident occurred on January 28, with a Chinese research balloon accidentally entering the airspace over Alaska.
A report by NBC News on Friday revealed that US President Joe Biden planned to speak with Xi Jinping after the balloon incident in January, but his national security advisers talked him out of it after noticing that tensions had risen drastically.
The balloon incident occurred on January 28, with a Chinese research balloon accidentally entering the airspace over Alaska, before it was found floating over missile sites in Montana. Days later, after tracking, the US decided to shoot it down over the South Carolina coast.
Authorities suspected that the balloon was intended for surveillance use across the US. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was scheduled on a trip to Beijing, had to cancel his visit after China blamed politicians and the media for using the balloon incident as a pretext to attack and smear China.
At the time of the incident, Biden was planning to speak with Xi in a bid to ease tensions, but his national security advisors warned him that doing so would set off further tensions given China’s anger towards Washington and speculations about China’s intentions, the report states.
Instead, they recommended that he reach out to China by first engaging with low or mid-level officials, then gradually working up to higher-ranking ones, the report added.
In early April, NBC News released a report stating that the Chinese balloon, which was downed on February 4, reportedly managed to successfully collect critical data from several military sites with the Biden administration failing to prevent the covert espionage mission.
The data was reportedly collected through electronic signals, which can be picked up from weapons systems or through communications from base personnel, rather than images, the informed sources told NBC.
It was later reported by the Washington Post, citing several US officials, that the US intelligence believes the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was part of a vast surveillance program of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
According to officials, balloons belonging to China have been located over five continents. It was also relayed that allies of the US believed to be a target of the ‘spy’ balloon have been contacted as well. It was reported by US media, quoting a senior administration official that a briefing was conducted by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on the matter for around 40 embassies.
Later in February, the Global Times reported that the US Army had employed various aircraft to spy on China after disguising them as civilian aerial devices.
Citing a Chinese technology and intelligence company called MizarVision, the report states that the US had used all sorts of spying aerial devices, some of which it disguised as civilian aircraft, including balloons, to conduct its spying operations.
Some of the aircraft that are frequently deployed to carry out reconnaissance missions include the EP-3E electronic signals reconnaissance plane, the P-8A maritime patrol and reconnaissance plane, the RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, the E-8C airborne command and control plane, and the U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance plane, MizarVision told the Global Times.