The Canadian Armed Forces revealed late Thursday that it is monitoring a “potential second incident” related to the discovery of a massive Chinese balloon over Montana that the Communist Party claimed had drifted off course and coincidentally landed near American military sites of high importance.
The Pentagon confirmed late Thursday that it had identified what it suspected was a Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana, near an area housing nuclear missile silo fields. A Pentagon spokesman insisted the balloon was “currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.” Pentagon officials reportedly opted not to shoot the balloon down, despite the overt national security threat it causes, out of concern that debris from the destroyed balloon could hurt people on the ground.
The Communist Party of China confirmed on Friday that the balloon originated in China, but claimed it unintentionally drifted into sensitive U.S. airspace due to “force majeure.”
The balloon has caused a growing international scandal for left-wing President Joe Biden, who is facing criticism from the right for not acting to take down the balloon and reportedly moved to postpone a planned trip to China by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday. Hours before the reported postponement, reports indicated that China had agreed to schedule a meeting between Blinken and dictator Xi Jinping.
The Canadian government waded into the fray with a statement confirming that it is working “with American partners and continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard Canada’s sensitive information from foreign intelligence threats.” It also suggested the existed of either a second Chinese alleged spy balloon or of a second incident involving the same balloon.
“Canadians are safe and Canada is taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including the monitoring of a potential second incident,” the Canadian Armed Forces said in a statement late Thursday.
Ottawa has yet to provide any more details regarding the “potential second incident.” Canada’s Globe and Mail reported on Friday that the Canadian government had summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest the balloon’s presence in the country – a move that, at press time, Biden has reportedly yet to make. The Canadian newspaper of record also indicated that experts believe the same balloon over Montana may have spent significant time drifting over British Columbia, Canada, after entering Alaskan airspace.
Chinese ambassador summoned over suspected spy balloon that drifted across Western Canada#cdnpoli https://t.co/HjtQDdSHq8 pic.twitter.com/xPl81TmWV6
— Michael Chong (@MichaelChongMP) February 3, 2023
The Global and Mail cited a Canadian aircraft expert who suggested the flight path of the balloon out of China likely took it over the north Pacific Ocean into Alaska, then down Canada into Montana. The expert, Steffan Watkins, said Canada appeared to have used its air force to intercept the balloon in late January.
The balloon did not become a source of public alarm in either America or Canada until locals in Montana filmed it flying overhead. The Pentagon then issued a statement confirming it had identified a Chinese alleged surveillance vessel.
Chinese officials spent much of Friday denying having any information about the balloon before confirming that it was, in fact, Chinese.
“The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry read. “Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.”
“The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure,” the statement concluded.
Many public officials in the United States are openly questioning the Chinese government’s explanation, particularly in light of Beijing’s history of using meteorology as an excuse to spy on and infiltrate the sovereign territory of its neighbors. Chinese officials routinely refer to illegal artificial islands that it built in the South China Sea, located in territory belonging to Vietnam and the Philippines, and their facilities as “research” or “meteorology” related. In reality, satellite images and studies of the region indicate China has built an intricate military and surveillance infrastructure in the region.
“This is not some hot air balloon, it has a large payload of sensors roughly the size of two city buses & the ability to maneuver independently,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in a statement on Friday, calling it a “mistake to not shoot down that Chinese spy balloon.”
“The [Chinese Communist Party] spy balloon is as much about weather as the Confucius Institutes are about education,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wrote on Twtter, later adding, “the Chinese Communist Party is a threat to our existence.”
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