US says Chinese balloon part of vast surveillance program

Washington, Feb 8 (EFE).- United States intelligence services say that a Chinese balloon that was spotted crossing the country last week is part of a vast aerial surveillance program managed by Beijing.

US intelligence officials told the Washington Post that the Chinese spy balloon, which was shot down on Saturday, was part of an extensive Chinese surveillance program to collect information on military assets in several countries and was operated by China’s armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The surveillance balloons, which have operated for several years from Hainan province, off China’s southern coast, have collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China, including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, according to the Post.

The newspaper cites several US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“What the Chinese have done is taken an unbelievably old technology, and basically married it with modern communications and observation capabilities,” to gather intelligence on other nations’ militaries, an official told the newspaper.

On Monday, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held a briefing on China’s balloon surveillance program for some 150 people from around 40 embassies, a senior administration official familiar with the matter told the US outlet.

The department has also sent all US embassies “detailed information” on this type of espionage.

“There has been great interest in this on the part of our allies and partners,” a senior administration official told the publication.

Analysts do not yet know the size of the balloon fleet, but say there have been “dozens” of missions since 2018, another US official was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

He added that they take advantage of technology provided by a private Chinese company that is part of the country’s civil-military fusion effort, a program that enables private companies to develop technologies used by the PLA. EFE


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