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U.S. Officials: Chinese Balloon Had Intelligence Collection Capabilities

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Thompson/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Thompson/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that the U.S. shot down could in fact collect communications signals, according to officials at the State Department, who have determined that the balloon was equipped with multiple antennas for "intelligence collection operations."

Following the balloon's destruction, U.S. lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution condemning China for the balloon, which Beijing has denied was for spying and instead insist was a weather device that blew astray.

U.S. officials believe the balloon is part of a massive fleet of surveillance capabilities that spans five continents.

In Congress, members of the House of Representatives labeled the balloon as a "violation of U.S. sovereignty," voting 419 to 0 to condemn its use. The appearance of the balloon in American airspace led the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel his trip to China.

On Thursday, the Chinese government said it was unaware of any wider fleet of surveillance balloons, claiming that such statements were "part of the information and public opinion warfare the U.S. has waged on China," according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

The Chinese government also attacked U.S. President Joe Biden after his recent PBS interview when he mentioned that Chinese President Xi Jinping was facing "enormous problems."

State Department officials told reporters that high-resolution images revealed the balloon was about 200 feet tall and had large solar panels that could operate "multiple active intelligence collection sensors" as well as antennas that were able to collect and geo-locate communications."

According to reports, U.S. officials are considering responding against groups linked to the Chinese government involved in the balloon's operation.

Experts and officials familiar with Chinese spying technology note that while it is impossible to know what type of data Beijing might have gathered from the balloon's mission, it is possible that it obtained cell phones, radio, and other communications from American military bases.

The FBI is helping to process debris collected from the balloon, which contains parts of the devices' canopy, wires, and electronic parts from the ocean's surface.

During a Wednesday news conference, U.S. Defense Department Spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder confirmed to reporters that the U.S. government believed balloons similar to the one shot down operated over North and South America along with East and Southeast Asia and Europe.

According to reports, U.S. intelligence, military, and foreign policy officials briefed members of Congress about the balloon and its mission.

In the House and Senate, Republican congressional members are angry that the administration did not strike the balloon when it reached American airspace, calling on the administration to get tougher on China and not to ignore Beijing.

Despite the administration saying that China's threat is minimal, the Communist government continues to grow its economic influence globally and strengthen its military and intelligence capabilities against America. For the past several years, China has helped regimes like Iran, Russia, North Korea, and other anti-American countries circumvent international sanctions and provide military resources to maintain their control. As China continues to grow its presence, many say it has its eyes on the state of Taiwan and is waiting for the right moment to attack.

Related Story: Secretary of State Blinken Postpones China Trip After Spy Balloon Discovery

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