Recovery work off US east coast after balloon down
Photo: US Navy/Lt.
jg Jerry Ireland/HANDOUT/EPA
The case of the suspected spy balloon shot down by the USA from China is still preoccupying security and military circles about a week after the first sighting - and is now also causing debates at the highest political level.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the destroyed aircraft is part of Beijing's extensive surveillance program.
Such balloons have been collecting information about military installations in countries and areas that are of strategic interest to China for years, the newspaper reported on Tuesday evening (local time), citing US intelligence circles.
These included, for example, Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.
The balloons would operate in part from the coast of the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
So far they have been sighted on five continents.
The recent appearance of the Chinese surveillance balloon suspected of being used for espionage purposes over US territory has further chilled the already chilly relations between the two countries.
Embassies are supplied with information
Washington accuses China of using the balloon to spy on military installations.
The government in Beijing, on the other hand, spoke of a civilian research balloon that had gone off course.
Another specimen was spotted over Latin America shortly after the first sighting.
China apologized to Costa Rica for the overflight.
"The Chinese have combined incredibly ancient technology with modern communications and observation capabilities to gather intelligence on other countries' armed forces," the Washington Post quoted an unnamed US official as saying.
The US State Department has sent detailed information about the surveillance balloons to each US embassy, which can be shared with allies and partners, according to the newspaper.
"Our allies and partners are very interested," said the government representative.
Beijing does not want a call from the US
According to the Pentagon, China has also blocked an attempt to call US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
The Pentagon requested a secure line call between Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe immediately after the balloon was launched on Saturday, ministry spokesman Pat Ryder said Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, the People's Republic of China has rejected our application."
"We believe in the importance of maintaining open channels of communication between the US and the People's Republic of China in order to manage our relationship responsibly," Ryder said.
"Wires between our armed forces are particularly important at such moments." The US would continue to advocate for open channels of communication.
The overflight of the alleged spy balloon over the United States had caused a stir, outrage and new tensions between Washington and Beijing in the past few days.
Biden finally had the balloon shot down by a fighter jet over the Atlantic on the US East Coast on Saturday when the balloon was no longer over the mainland.
The rubble is now being salvaged, and the United States hopes to gain important insights from the evaluation.
On Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said the shooting down had "seriously impaired and damaged" relations between the People's Republic and the United States.