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Pentagon: Balloon did not collect intelligence

Pentagon: Balloon did not collect intelligence

Status: 06/30/2023 11:20 am

A Chinese balloon launch off the US coast in February caused a scandal. The Pentagon has now said that the balloon did not collect any intelligence information when it flew over the United States. The army contributed to this.

According to the US Department of Defense, a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down by the US military over the Atlantic Ocean in February did not gather any intelligence after a day-long flight by the US. This comes from a statement from Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder.

“As you heard then, we knew the balloon had intelligence-gathering capabilities,” Ryder told reporters. “But it is, our assessment now, that no collection occurred during transit or heavy air travel in the United States.”

Accordingly, the United States “took steps to limit the collection of information by balloon”. Those efforts “definitely helped,” Ryder said, but did not elaborate.

Beijing denies all Accusations

Earlier this year, a Chinese balloon flew over the United States for an entire day, leading to a scandal between Washington and Beijing. An American warplane finally shot down the balloon over the US East Coast. According to US reports, it is a Chinese spy balloon. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken canceled his planned visit to China in February.

The government in Beijing rejected the US accusations and spoke of a civilian balloon for meteorological purposes. At the time, a US official said the balloon had several antennas. According to him, it is “equipped with solar cells large enough to generate enough energy to power several active reconnaissance sensors”.

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Blinken made some progress

US Secretary of State Blinken made up for his trip to China last week. Shortly before takeoff, President Joe Biden downplayed the balloon incident, saying he didn’t think the Chinese leadership knew where the balloon was and “what’s in it, what’s going on.”

During Blinken’s visit, both parties announced their desire to stabilize their ailing relations. The U.S. and China agreed to resume diplomatic procedures agreed by state and party leader Xi Jinping with Biden in Bali last year. However, Beijing rejected Washington’s demand that the two countries’ militaries continue regular contact.

Biden called Xi a dictator

US President Biden praised his chief diplomat’s visit last Monday as “a job well done”. “I look forward to meeting with President Xi in the future,” Biden said. However, a short time later, at a campaign event in the state of California, he caused irritation when he compared state and party leader Xi Jinping to a “dictator”.

Beijing responded with fury. A State Department spokesman said such a comparison was “grossly ridiculous and irresponsible”. Biden’s statements have no factual basis and violate diplomatic protocol and China’s political dignity.

Republicans had criticized the handling of the balloon

Current Pentagon reports about the Chinese balloon also have a domestic component. Republicans have criticized the actions of Democratic President Biden’s administration for, among other things, the late start. With an eye on the 2024 presidential campaign, where Biden wants to run again for the Democratic Party, balloon manipulation may still play a role.