The United States will explore taking action against the Chinese entities linked to its military that supported the surveillance balloon’s incursion into American airspace, officials here said on Thursday.
The huge balloon was shot down by a US fighter jet on Saturday off the coast of South Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean. It had hovered over continental America for several days after entering the US airspace on January 30 in Montana.
“We know the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has overflown these surveillance balloons over more than 40 countries across five continents. The Biden Administration is reaching out to countries directly about the scope of this programme and answer any questions,” a senior State Department official said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official asserted that it is known that China used these balloons for surveillance.
“High-resolution imagery from U-2 flybys revealed that the high-altitude balloon was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations. The high altitude balloons’ equipment was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather balloons,” the official alleged.
“It had multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications. It was equipped with solar panels large enough to produce the requisite power to operate multiple active intelligence collection sensors,” the official said, days after the Chinese Surveillance balloon was shot down by fighter jets in the Atlantic Ocean.
“We know these balloons are all part of a PRC (People’s Republic of China) fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations. These kinds of activities are often undertaken at the direction of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA),” said the official.
US officials have described the balloon as being about 60m tall, with the payload portion comparable in size to a regional aircraft.
China has acknowledged that the balloon was theirs but denied that it was for surveillance purposes rather than for weather monitoring and that it had drifted off course. Beijing has alleged that the US has violated international law by shooting down its balloon.