A US F-22 plane took to the air on Saturday to shoot down a Chinese surveillance and observation balloon that Chinese officials said was conducting meteorology studies.
The Chinese state said it was “regretful” that conditions of force majeure blew the balloon over the US, before calling it a “clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice,” to shoot it down.
Debris from the balloon has now been collected by military personnel.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby claimed without evidence the balloon was “conducting surveillance over sensitive military sites inside the United States,” and added that the object was equipped with propellers and had the ability “to maneuver itself, to speed up, to slow down and to turn”. Kirby wasn’t asked what made maneuverability unique to surveillance equipment and not weather monitoring.
“It is a threat right here at home. It is a threat to American sovereignty, and it is a threat to the Midwest—in places like those that I live in,” said House China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher (R – WI) in response to the balloon story.
Sect. of State, Antony Blinken even canceled a long-awaited trip to China over Balloongate. AP reports that Blinken told a senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the U.S. was “an irresponsible act and that (China’s) decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have”.
For all those involved, Balloongate is a sham of political theater. Continuous, low-Earth orbit surveillance of the continental US, and cyber surveillance of US servers by foreign entities are constant, 24-7 realities of living in the world’s largest superpower, and by no means a threat to sovereignty.
“It’s been a fact of life since the dawn of the nuclear age, and with the advent of satellite surveillance systems, it long ago became an everyday occurrence,” former CIA analyst George Beebe told Responsible Statecraft’s Jake Werner—the latter adding that US intelligence even bugged the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the nation’s closest allies.
Only until 2020, the US and Russia had maintained the Open Skies Treaty, which for decades expressly allowed each nation to surveil the other’s nuclear missile sites and capabilities. In the recent national security update on Chinese military and technological capabilities published by the Biden Administration, cyber and satellite-based systems were chief among the perceived threats listed.
It is a sham as well for the Chinese, who should have come right out, admitted the intelligence nature of the balloon, and used it as grounds to build a mutual surveillance treaty of their own, under the simple pretenses of demonstrating what the US hostility to China entails for the American people.
It’s a sham for Blinken, who holds the post of America’s top diplomat, to cancel high-level talks between two of the three world superpowers, just days after an Air Force General outrightly told the media he thought the US would go to war with China in 2025, for something so trivial as surveillance. WaL
PICTURED ABOVE: credit Chase Doak via Eyepress