China has been using balloons for years to spy on the entire world, U.S. military leaders said Wednesday.
At least four balloons have entered U.S. airspace since 2017, not counting the one that fighter jets shot down Saturday off the South Carolina coast, according to Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary.
Ryder didn’t describe exactly where the balloons traveled, saying only that they soared over “sites that would be of interest to the Chinese.”
In February 2021, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii “detected a high-altitude object floating in air in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands,” according to a tweet from Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara. However, Ryder would not confirm Wednesday if that was a Chinese spy balloon.
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China has sent surveillance balloons all over the world, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“The United States was not the only target,” he said Wednesday at a press conference, adding that the U.S. sent briefings to allies worldwide.
The most recent Chinese surveillance balloon was first detected Jan. 28 over Alaska, but became national news early last week when it was spotted over Billings, Mont. The Pentagon let the balloon float across the U.S. before shooting it down about 10 miles off Myrtle Beach on Saturday.
Ryder said the slow and steady method allowed the U.S. to learn “a lot more” about the balloon program.
China continues to claim that the balloon was simply a civilian weather device.
“I can assure you this was not for civilian purposes,” Ryder said Wednesday. “We are 100% clear about that.”
With News Wire Services