Friday, February 3, 2023

Last Call For Balloon Fight

The spotting of a high-altitude balloon over the U.S. mainland has quickly spiraled into a diplomatic incident. U.S. officials say the object is a Chinese spy balloon, while Chinese officials called it a “civilian airship” mainly used to track weather.

The airborne vehicle was seen over Montana, home to some of the United States’ nuclear missile silos.

The balloon has since moved southeast from Montana, U.S. officials said Friday. The Pentagon has a “constant fix” on the aircraft and its direction and is collecting signals and data on it, the aide said. Reports of a second device in Canada and Alaska are inaccurate, a senior defense official told lawmakers Friday morning.

Spy balloons have previously passed over the United States, but this object is unusual for loitering overhead “for an extended period of time,” defense officials say.

The first known usage of reconnaissance balloons was by the French during the Battle of Fleurus in 1794, when they were used to spy on Austrian and Dutch troops in what is now Belgium.

Here’s what you need to know about spy balloons, and about the Chinese balloon spotted over Montana.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed his upcoming trip to China in response to the flying of a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the United States, in what marks a significant new phase in the tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Blinken, who was due to depart Friday night for Beijing, said at a press conference Friday that the high-altitude surveillance balloon flying over the continental United States “created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip.” He informed China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in a call Friday morning that he was postponing.

“In my call today with Director Wang Yi, I made clear that the presence of this surveillance balloon in US airspace is a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law, that it’s an irresponsible act, and that the (People’s Republic of China) decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have,” Blinken told reporters Friday.

Blinken said Friday that the US was confident the balloon over the US is a Chinese surveillance balloon.

The Chinese foreign ministry claimed Friday that the balloon was a “civilian airship” used mainly for weather research that deviated from its planned course. The statement from a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry was the first admission that the airship originated in China.

“It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure,” the statement added, using a legalistic term to mean circumstances beyond China’s control.
If Beijing is indeed trolling us here, it's because they know perfectly well that Republicans aren't hesitating to use it to push their own garbage conspiracies

Several top Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, on Friday, called on the Biden administration to shoot down the balloon, which some military leaders had discussed. Ryder said at his briefing Friday that the military was still "reviewing options" but had not taken the balloon down because "right now we assess that there is no physical threat or military threat to people on the ground."

Trump posted on his platform Truth Social, “SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., one of the most vocal critics in Congress of the Chinese government and U.S. policy toward China, also called on the U.S. government to bring down the balloon.

“President Biden should stop coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists. Bring the balloon down now and exploit its tech package, which could be an intelligence bonanza,” said Cotton. “And President Biden and Secretary Austin need to answer if this [balloon] was detected over Alaskan airspace. If so, why didn’t we bring it down there? If not, why not? As usual, the Chinese Communists’ provocations have been met with weakness and hand-wringing.”
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, blasted President Biden for a high-altitude balloon from China that is traveling over the continental United States not being shot down before it reached U.S. territory, speculating that it could have “bioweapons.”

Comer told Fox News’s Harris Faulkner in an interview on Friday that he is concerned that the federal government “obviously” does not know what is in the balloon.

“Is it bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” Comer said, referring to the Chinese city where the COVID-19 virus was first discovered. “We don’t know anything about that balloon.”

He said China is “clearly playing games” with the U.S., and the balloon should not have been allowed to cross into the airspace of the continental U.S.
Next thing you know, the House GOP will be demanding that we shut down your local Chinese take out place.

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