UPDATE: Chinese surveillance balloons most likely used in UK says defence minister

Chinese ‘WEATHER’ balloon did gather sensitive info from US military bases

It's official,Chinese ‘WEATHER’ balloon did gather sensitive info from US military bases. Credit: Twitter RawsAlerts

12:07 (February 10) – The UK´s defence minister has said it is likely that Chinese spy balloons have also been used to collect data on the country´s military installations.

Ben Wallace has said that it was not unusual for “satellites” to float around in the sky and have done so for years, adding that it’s also probable that such ´satellites have been used by the Chinese to have a good look at the UK.

He continued saying that he too would order the shooting down of any spy balloon that entered the UK´s airspace, adding that the U.S. were right to take the action they did.

Wallace did not confirm whether any such balloons had been identified or whether any steps had been taken to ensure that the UK were prepared for any such eventuality.

12:59 (February 7) – The US Army says that the Chinese surveillance balloon that they shot down earlier this week was the height of a 20-storey building, roughly 60 metres.

China continues to insist that the U.S. overreacted to the presence of the balloon and has promised repercussions, at the same time apologising for the balloon that strayed into South American airspace.

Glen VanHerck, Commander of North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), said that the equipment on board the balloon was similar to that of a commercial plane and could weigh up to 450kgs.

According to the NBC newsroom, the size and suspected weight of the balloon were behind the decision to shoot it down some six nautical miles off the South Carolina coast. Fearing civilian injury, the army waited for the balloon to drift out to sea before shooting it down.

A temporary security zone is now in place around the waters where the balloon was shot down with the military working to recover as many components as possible. China for their part continue to maintain that the balloon contained meteorological and scientific equipment and that the U.S. had overreacted.

10:26 (February 7) – The general responsible for the security of North American airspace has said that Chinese surveillance balloons are not a new phenomenon, but rather that they were not always noticed by the Pentagon.

General Glen VanHerck told the Washington Post on Tuesday, February 7 that several such balloons were identified during former President Donald Trump´s time in office, this is a reference to Republican Party anger with current President Joe Biden.

VanHerck said that balloons have been detected at least five times, including over Texas, Florida, Hawaii and Guam. All these areas have military bases according to the General.

Saying it was a “worrying shortcoming” he added: “It was my job to detect these threats and I have to admit that we didn’t succeed.”

The balloon was ultimately shot down on February 4 after its flight path suggested it would travel from Montana across the country all the way to New York.

Bloomberg has also reported sources that say such balloons have been spotted over strategic military sites and during Trump´s time in office, including naval ports.

Biden had played down the incident of the spy balloon saying it “does not worsen the relationship between China and the United States,” perhaps reflecting the reality that the two countries are involved in spying on each other.

According to the reports the Chinese surveillance balloon shot down this week was substantially larger than many of those spotted in the past, suggesting that either activity has picked up or more sophisticated equipment is being used to spy on the U.S. The question is whether this is the only country where China is engaged in such activities.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.