US Secretary of State Antony Blinken might already have packed his suitcase to fly to Beijing this weekend — to deal with dense topics like the China-Taiwan dispute — but a luminous orb streaking across the US skies ruined plans : the secretaries of state of the two greatest world powers will not be able to see each other until it is clear why, a white Chinese hot air balloon that shines like a small sun, appeared floating over the state of Montana and is not leaving.
Blinken personally called his counterpart Wang Yi this Friday, announcing that he was postponing his trip after detecting a balloon for alleged espionage purposes, something he described as “an irresponsible act.”
The US Government assured that it had not the slightest doubt about the Chinese origin of this great aerostat that flew at high altitude. And he is convinced that it is for “surveillance” purposes. Initially, the Chinese government asked that the matter not be exaggerated, but on Friday it acknowledged that it is a device from China: “it is a civil aircraft used for scientific purposes, mainly meteorological,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Due to the wind, the balloon “deviated from its trajectory; we regret the accidental entry of the aircraft into US airspace due to force majeure.”
Aerostatic technology was created in 1782 by the Montgolfier brothers and has not evolved much. There is no way to remote control it, not even from the gondola: it flies completely at the whim of the wind. Human action only triggers the raise or lower commands.
Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that the balloon is flying “at an altitude well above commercial air traffic” and “poses no military or physical threat to people on the ground.” According to US media, the balloon flew over the Aleutian Islands in the northern Pacific Ocean and Canada, before entering US airspace several days ago over the state of Montana, where the Malmstrom airbase with 150 missile silos is located. intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of nuclear warheads.
A Pentagon official said on condition of anonymity that F-22 fighter jets had come close to monitoring the balloon and it was decided not to shoot it down because of the risks to people on the ground. And he added his ability to gather information is considered “limited.”
“Shoot that balloon down!”
Former President Donald Trump further acted on the complaint on his Truth Social network by exclaiming “Tear down that balloon!”, without caring about the collateral damage to people.
Glenn Carle -former head of “international threats” at the CIA- told Al Jazzera that “we know that China and the US are spying on each other using satellites. In recent years China has expanded its satellite arsenal from 250 to 500. Several experts have said that it is not very possible that this surveillance balloon would be able to obtain information that a satellite does not already know about us in advance.” He added that China has “sophisticated satellites and it’s not clear to me what intelligence advantage they could get from a balloon. Perhaps this fits in with so-called Wolf Warrior diplomacy,” an aggressive-style policy adopted by foreign relations. Chinese in the 21st century under Jinping” title=”Xi Jinping” style=”background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);”>Xi Jinpingdifferent from the previous modality called “peaceful rise of china” which emphasized avoiding controversy and used cooperative rhetoric. But all alarming information about the mysterious Chinese sphere is mere speculation.
The weight of the diplomatic meeting between China and the US frustrated by the lost balloon was not minor: Blinken’s visit to China would have been the first by a US Secretary of State since October 2018, at a time when the two Superpowers try to prevent their tensions from escalating into open conflict. As long as the balloon remains suspended in the air, there may be no specific date for the China-US summit. Blinken said that had he traveled, the balloon problem “would have limited very seriously” the agenda.
Also the Canadian government put the cry in the sky by the phantom balloon without direction nor pilot: Canada takes measures to guarantee the security of its air space , informed the Ministry of Defense. It is not the first time that an unidentified balloon has appeared in the skies of North America. But never before had anyone stayed as long as this, which came to upend global geopolitics.