WASHINGTON – The United States (US) military has observed a number of suspected Chinese reconnaissance balloons in the Middle East in recent years. This statement was made by the Head of the Air Force Central Command Lieutenant General Alexus Grynkewich on Monday (13/2/2023). Washington and Beijing have traded accusations of espionage since the US shot down several high-altitude objects in recent days. “While we have seen high-altitude balloons in the region before, they do not pose a threat, they are not of any concern to us,” Grynkewich said at an event organized by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a think tank funded by the US military and arms industry. .
Across the US military’s Central Command, which covers the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, one “major incident” involving balloons occurred last fall. The “other one or two” happened in previous years, according to the general. These balloons, which Grynkewich identified as Chinese, “have not yet been hung from American bases or posed any threat to our forces,” he said. “The level of concern that I have about them is very low. It’s not something that keeps me from sleeping,” he said. US warplanes shot down a “Chinese reconnaissance balloon” off the coast of South Carolina just over a week ago, after it had crossed most of the country.
The Pentagon said the balloon was carrying equipment used to survey “strategic sites”, while Beijing insisted it was a “civil aircraft” that veered off course. Three such objects have been shot down by American warplanes over the US and Canada, although none of these aircraft have been labeled as Chinese by US officials. US Northern Command commander General Glen VanHerck told reporters the military refused to “categorize them as balloons”, and was unsure “how they stayed aloft”. Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “US balloons also used to enter other countries’ airspace illegally.” Wang claims that in the past year, “US high-altitude balloons have flown illegally over China’s airspace more than ten times.” The White House denied Wang’s accusations, but Grynkewich said Monday that surveillance balloons allow users “to keep your eye on a certain area of the planet for a while”, and the US Air Force “definitely is interested in the technology”.
Source: Sindo News