U.S. Shoots Down Claim That American Balloons Have Been Soaring Over China
China claimed on Monday that the United States has sent at least 10 unsanctioned balloons over Chinese airspace since last year, describing the U.S. the world’s largest “surveillance empire.” Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, denied the allegation.
“Any claim that the U.S. government operates surveillance balloons over the PRC is false,” she tweeted. “It is China that has a high-altitude surveillance balloon program for intelligence collection, that it has used to violate the sovereignty of the US and over 40 countries across 5 continents.”
“This is the latest example of China scrambling to do damage control,” Watson added. “It has repeatedly and wrongly claimed the surveillance balloon it sent over the U.S. was a weather balloon and has failed to offer any credible explanations for its intrusion into our airspace, airspace of others.”
John Kirby of the NSC denied it later on Monday. “Not true, not doing it,” he said. “Just absolutely not true.”
Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said earlier on Monday that it’s “common” for the U.S. to send balloons across other nations, according to The Washington Post. Wenbin added that the U.S. should “first reflect on itself and change course, rather than slander, discredit or incite confrontation.”
China’s allegation comes after the U.S. downed what it said was a Chinese spy balloon earlier this month. The balloon, which the Pentagon said did not pose any significant physical or intelligence threat to Americans, crossed the U.S. before President Biden ordered it shot down once it cleared the Atlantic coast. China has claimed the balloon was intended to collect scientific data and accidentally crossed into U.S. airspace. The U.S. didn’t buy the excuse, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned diplomatic trip to China in response to the airborne incursion.
The U.S. has since shot down multiple additional high-altitude objects. It’s unclear from where the additional objects were launched, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday that intelligence believes they were also balloons launched from the earth — not somewhere far, far away.