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US says may target Chinese entities linked to spy balloon

by flimflex100

WASHINGTON: The United States will explore taking action against entities connected to the Chinese military that supported the incursion by a Chinese spy balloon into US airspace last week, a senior State Department official said on Thursday.
Washington is confident that the manufacturer of the Chinese balloon, shot down by the US military last weekend off the US East Coast, has a “direct relationship” with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the department official added.
Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman highlighted the flight of the Chinese spy balloon over the United States as another sign of Beijing’s efforts to reshape the international order.
Sherman also said the United States would continue to prevent China’s exploitation of US technology to enable its own military modernization.
“The PRC is the only competitor with the intent and means to reshape the international order,” Sherman told the hearing, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
“Last week the American people saw the latest example of that reality, after the US government detected, closely tracked, and shot down the PRCs high altitude surveillance balloon that had entered our territorial airspace in clear violation of our sovereignty and international law.”
The appearance of the Chinese balloon over the United States last week caused political outrage in Washington and prompted US secretary of state Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to Beijing that both countries had hoped would patch their frayed relations. Blinken would have arrived in Beijing on Sunday.
A US Air Force fighter jet shot down the balloon off the South Carolina coast on Saturday, a week after it first entered US airspace. China’s foreign ministry has said it was a weather balloon that had blown off course and accused the United States of overreacting.
“The United States will … explore taking action against PRC entities linked to the PLA that supported the balloon’s incursion into US airspace,” a senior State Department official said in a statement.
“We are confident that the balloon manufacturer has a direct relationship with China’s military and is an approved vendor of the PLA, according to information published in an official procurement portal for the PLA,” the official said.
The company also advertises balloon products on its website and hosts videos from past flights, which appear to have overflown at least US airspace and the airspace of other countries, the official said, without naming the business.
The official said the United States has collected high-resolution imagery of the balloon from U-2 aircraft flybys that revealed it was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations.
China had conducted similar surveillance flights over more than 40 countries on five continents, the official said.
Separately on Thursday, US Senate Democrats issued a report saying that Washington must commit more diplomatic and security resources to the Indo-Pacific to push back against China, as Beijing seeks to create a regional sphere of influence and become the world’s most influential power.
The public spectacle of a Chinese balloon drifting slowly across the United States has brought into sharp focus the challenge posed by China to the United States and its allies.
Japan said on Thursday it was exchanging information with the United States after confirmations of suspected balloons flying over Japan, including in the open waters off the southwestern region of Kyushu in 2022.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Wednesday Washington was gaining more information “almost by the hour” on the Chinese spy balloon and the United States would share relevant findings with Congress and allies around the world.
An Asia diplomat told Reuters there was a free flow of information about the balloon, with the United States passing on additional details to allies and partner as they became available.

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