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China accuses U.S. of flying balloons over Chinese airspace

China said on Monday that U.S. high-altitude balloons had flown over its airspace without permission more than 10 times since the beginning of January 2022.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, responding to a question at a regular media briefing in Beijing, did not provide further details.

Asked how China had responded to the flights, Wang said China’s response to such incidents was “responsible and professional”.

China’s assertion comes after the United States earlier this month shot down what it says was a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. Beijing says the balloon was a civilian research craft and accused Washington of overreacting.

The U.S. military has subsequently shot down three other flying objects over North America and Canada.

Further sightings in China

An unidentified flying object was reportedly detected over waters near a northern Chinese port city close to the Bohai Sea.

The Qingdao Marine Development Bureau sent a message to fishing boats that an unidentified flying object had been spotted over waters near Rizhao and authorities were preparing to shoot it down, Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper reported on Sunday.

U.K. to review airspace security

Britain will review its security following the incident in the U.S. earlier this month, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

“The U.K. and her allies will review what these airspace intrusions mean for our security. This development is another sign of how the global threat picture is changing for the worse,” Wallace told the Telegraph newspaper late on Sunday.

The Telegraph reported that the security review would be used to help decide whether changes need to be made to the surveillance of British airspace.

The spectacle of the Chinese balloon drifting over the United States caused political outrage in Washington and brought into sharp focus the challenge posed by China to the United States and its allies.

Asked on Sky News on Monday if it was possible Chinese spy balloons had already been used over Britain, junior transport minister Richard Holden said: “It is possible.”

“The government is concerned about what’s going on,” he said. “China is a hostile state and we need to be aware of that and the way it acts and behaves.”

Balloon-assisted monitoring nothing new

The Guardian reported in 2019 that the U.S. military conducted wide-area surveillance tests across six midwest states using experimental high-altitude balloons, documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revealed.

Those balloons traveled in the stratosphere at altitudes of up to 65,000 ft (approx. 20,000 m). Their purpose was to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotics trafficking and homeland security threats”, according to a filing made on behalf of the Sierra Nevada Corporation, an aerospace and defense company.

The balloons carried hi-tech radars designed to simultaneously track many individual vehicles day or night, through any kind of weather.

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