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Chinese spy balloon did not collect information, US says

June 30, 2023

The US took steps to mitigate any collection efforts of the suspected spy balloon, the Pentagon has said. According to press reports, the device used US technology.

Air Force U-2 pilot looks down at the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon
The suspected Chinese spy balloon was shot down by the US Air Force off the coast of South CarolinaImage: US Air Force via Reuters

The Chinese balloon that flew across the US from Alaska early this year did not collect intelligence, the Pentagon said on Thursday. 

Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder said that the US "took steps to mitigate" intelligence collection by the balloon.

The US Air force shot down the object just off of the South Carolina coast on February 4, after it had floated over the US mainland for days. 

US officials have been studying the debris recovered from the Atlantic ocean.

"As you heard at that time, we were aware that the balloon has intelligence collection capabilities," Pat Ryder said in a press conference. 

"It's been our assessment now that it did not collect while it was transiting the United States or overflying the United States," he added.


US Navy sailors recovering a mysterious high-altitude balloon from the Atlantic Ocean
China has consistently denied US espionage claimsImage: Petty Officer 1st Class Kris Lin/Cover/IMAGO

WSJ reports balloon used US technology

The huge balloon was reported to have a large payload of electronics. As it was flying above sensitive military installations, many in the US were concerned Beijing was collecting vital intelligence. 

Citing US officials, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Chinese balloon used American technology along with more specialized Chinese sensors to collect photographs.

The US authorities have not confirmed the reports.

China has repeatedly denied the accusations of espionage by the US, claiming the balloon was carrying meteorological equipment.

US-China: What’s behind the growing tensions?

The incident caused fresh strains between the US and China.

At that time, US officials said that the balloon had several antennas, including an arrangement likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications. 

The US secretary of state Antony Blinken cancelled his long-planned trip to China in February following the episode. 

Eventually, he travelled to Beijing in June, where both parties expressed their intention to stabilize troubled relations. 

ara/dj (dpa, AFP, Reuters)