The US shot several balloons out of the sky. The Americans suspect: Systematic espionage by China. Is the conflict now threatening to escalate?
Sightings of suspected spy balloons have been increasing since the beginning of February. They appear primarily in the airspace of the United States and Canada, but have also been sighted over Latin America.
The United States shot down the fourth flying object with fighter jets on Sunday. But what actually flies over the USA there? And how are the Chinese reacting? t-online answers the most important questions.
What has happened so far?
On February 2, the United States reported the sighting of a Chinese spy balloon over the sparsely populated US state of Montana for the first time. He was flying at an altitude of twelve kilometers – an unusually low altitude for a scout flight.
Initially, Washington debated whether and how the balloon should be launched. President Joe Biden chose to let the balloon float through US airspace for a few days and then launch it over the Atlantic. On February 4th, a warplane shot down the balloon over the South Carolina coast.
But it shouldn’t stop there. Last weekend, US fighter jets went out three more times to shoot down balloons over the states of Michigan, Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory. The FBI security agency has secured parts of the downed balloons as evidence and is examining the debris.
What’s new about the balloons?
More is known about the first sighted balloon than about the other flying objects shot down. He is said to have flown at an altitude of about twelve kilometers. The Pentagon also said the balloon was about the size of “three buses.” He was also able to intercept communications signals, according to the US State Department.
According to a US government official, the flying object that the Americans took out of the sky over Michigan on Sunday is said to have been octagonal, reports the AP news agency. The object was said to have been traveling at an altitude of six kilometers and had no recognizable charge. More is not officially known yet.
US Senator Chuck Schumer told the AP that this and two other aircraft shot down over the US and Canada in the past three days are also balloons. The balloon shot down over Alaska is said to have been about the size of “a small car”.
US forces destroyed another balloon over Canada. According to the government, it had a “cylindrical shape” and also flew at an altitude of about twelve kilometers. It is said to be smaller than the first spy balloon.
Why did the launch have to be?
The balloon is a “serious threat” to the safety of Canadian citizens, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference on Sunday. Therefore, in coordination with the United States, he gave the order to shoot it down.
The USA also justifies the launching of the balloons with security concerns – and a breach of international law. “It’s our airspace. As soon as it comes into our space, we can do whatever we want with it,” US President Biden said on Saturday. Under international law, the airspace over the land area of a state belongs to its sovereign territory. Accordingly, the same laws apply in the air as on the ground.
Does balloon surveillance have a system?
Yes, at least that’s what the US says. As a result, there is a whole fleet of Chinese surveillance and spy balloons. So far they are said to have flown over about 40 countries on five continents.