China Says U.S. Has Flown Balloons In Its Airspace 10 Times Since 2022
A government spokesman in China has accused the U.S. of flying balloons over the country 10 times since the start of 2022. The accusation comes after a weekend where the U.S. and Canada shot down three flying objects in as many days, leading many Americans to wonder what’s going on.
“Since last year, the U.S.’s high-altitude balloons have undergone more than 10 illegal flights into Chinese airspace without the approval of the relevant Chinese departments,” China foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Monday.
China also reportedly spotted an unidentified flying object on Sunday off the coast of Shandong Province, roughly halfway in between Beijing to the north and Shanghai to the south. China had pledged to shoot down the object, but it’s not yet clear if that occurred.
But the White House is denying that the U.S. has launched any spy balloons, giving a quote to the Guardian in what could have been carefully chosen words.
“Any claim that the US government operates surveillance balloons over the PRC [People’s Republic of China] is false,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told the Guardian on Monday.
Notably, Wang did not call the balloons spy aircraft, as the U.S. has alleged with the first uncrewed balloon that was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 4. That balloon had the ability to collect signals intelligence, according to the Pentagon, and crossed most of the continental U.S. before it was shot down.
That first balloon touched off a heated debate in U.S. media about the wisdom of allowing a foreign adversary in the New Cold War to cross the country with a spy balloon. But ever since, the Pentagon has been tracking numerous objects over U.S. and Canadian territory, shooting down one near Alaska on Friday, one in Canada’s Yukon Territory on Saturday, and another near Michigan over Lake Huron on Sunday.
The last three balloons are still largely a mystery, and were taken down only because they were flying low enough to pose a threat to civilian aircraft, according to the Pentagon.
“Because we have not yet been able to definitively assess what these recent objects are, we have acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our security and interests. The spy balloon from the PRC was, of course, different in that we knew precisely what it was,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs, Melissa Dalton, said in an off-camera press conference on Sunday.
“These most recent objects do not pose a kinetic military threat, but their path in proximity to sensitive DOD sites and the altitude that they were flying could be a hazard to civilian aviation and—and thus raised concerns,” Dalton continued.
But the mysterious nature of all these objects, at least one of which was described as octagon-shaped, has led the public to ask plenty of questions about what their government is blasting out of the sky. Given reports that U.S. military pilots couldn’t figure out how these objects were staying in the air, many Americans have wondered if we’re targeting an alien race that’s been brought to Earth.
General Glen VanHerck, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, was asked directly by a reporter on Sunday whether military leaders have ruled out extraterrestrial origin.
“I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out. I haven’t ruled out anything,” VanHerck said.
And it’s not just aircraft over North America that concerns the U.S. and its allies. A new report was published on Sunday explaining that Taiwan has seen “dozens” of balloons over its airspace in recent years, according to the Financial Times. Taiwan, for whatever it’s worth, doesn’t seem to think the balloons flying over its country are aliens.