The Biden administration stated on Monday that it is unable to confirm reports suggesting that China was able to collect real-time data from a spy balloon as it flew over sensitive military sites earlier this year. The analysis of the incident is still ongoing. NBC News reported on Monday that despite the U.S. government\’s efforts to prevent it, the Chinese balloon was able to transmit data back to Beijing in real time. This revelation could intensify Republican criticism of President Joe Biden for delaying the decision to shoot down the balloon until it reached a safe location.
The White House and the Pentagon have informed reporters that they cannot confirm these accounts. The Pentagon is still analyzing debris collected from the balloon after it was shot down on February 4th. Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said, I could not confirm that there was a real-time transmission from the balloon back to (China) at this time, adding, That\’s something we\’re analyzing right now.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry stated on Tuesday that China has made it clear that the unmanned civilian airship that flew over U.S. territory was an unexpected and isolated event. Spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular briefing, China rejects distortion and hyping up of this incident, in response to a question about the U.S. remarks.
Beijing denies that the balloon was a government spy vessel. The balloon spent a week flying over the United States and Canada before the U.S. military shot it down off the Atlantic Coast on Biden\’s orders. Reuters has reported that U.S. officials believe the high-altitude balloon was controlled by Beijing and was able to maneuver as it flew over the United States, sometimes steering left or right.
At the time, U.S. officials downplayed the balloon\’s impact on national security, stating that measures were taken to limit its ability to collect information on sensitive U.S. sites. They also dismissed the idea that the balloon was much more capable of collecting information than Chinese spy satellites while acknowledging the balloon\’s ability to loiter longer over U.S. locations than a satellite.
This incident led to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponing a planned visit to Beijing and further strained relations between Washington and Beijing. The controversy also caused the U.S. military to search the skies for other objects not being captured on radar.
The FBI has taken the lead in the analysis since the United States announced on February 17th that it had successfully concluded recovery efforts off South Carolina to collect sensors and other debris from the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon. As the investigation continues, the impact of this incident on U.S.-China relations remains to be seen.