China Spying on Dozens of Countries With 'High-Altitude Balloon Program,' White House Says

Chinese spy balloon over Montana / Reuters
February 13, 2023

China maintains a "high-altitude balloon program for intelligence collection" and has sent surveillance devices to dozens of countries, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Monday.

The White House could not confirm whether the last three objects the U.S. military shot down were part of the program, but recovery efforts are underway for the devices, Kirby said.

In total, four flying objects have been shot down by the U.S. military, beginning with the Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 4. The military has since shot down objects over Alaska on Feb. 10, northern Canada on Feb. 11, and Lake Huron on Feb. 12.

The four incidents have raised security concerns in Washington about airspace intrusions by China. The Pentagon is not tracking other flying objects, Kirby said.

In response to the incidents, Kirby announced that the administration is creating an interagency group to "study the broader policy implications for detection, analysis, and disposition of unidentified aerial objects that pose either safety or security risks."

Officials briefly closed portions of airspace over Montana and Lake Huron as the devices were intercepted.

When the Chinese spy balloon was first spotted in Montana on Jan. 31, Biden faced criticism for allowing the airship to float across the entire United States before ordering it shot down over the Atlantic Ocean. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week canceled his scheduled trip to China, where he was expected to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping.