US completes operation to recover debris from Chinese spy balloon

The US military has completed the recovery operation off the coast of South Carolina to recover debris from the suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over the Atlantic two weeks ago.

The U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for defending America’s homeland, said the mission was completed Thursday after the Navy “located and recovered debris from above [People’s Republic of China] Surveillance Balloon”.

It added that the final pieces of debris would be taken to an FBI lab in Virginia for “counterintelligence exploitation.”

Rescue teams have been recovering parts of the balloon, as well as sensors and other surveillance equipment that was in its payload, from the Atlantic since the balloon crashed on February 4.

Three other unidentified objects were also shot down over North America last week, although US President Joe Biden said Thursday they showed no evidence of links to China.

“Our military and the Canadian military are trying to recover the debris so we can learn more about these three objects,” he said.

The Biden administration is discussing how to release some of the sensitive information about the Chinese balloon that flew over North America for eight days before it was shot down by a US F-22 fighter jet.

Biden said Thursday he plans to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping to “get to the bottom of the incident” that has sparked another crisis in US-China relations.

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken canceled a visit to China two weeks ago after the balloon was discovered. He is trying to arrange a meeting with China’s top foreign policy leader Wang Yi at a security conference in Munich this weekend, but as of Thursday China had not agreed to one.

The balloon’s appearance in North American skies and its subsequent launch derailed efforts by Biden and Xi in Bali, Indonesia in November to mend their relationship.

Beijing on Friday criticized the US for its policy towards Taiwan after the Financial Times reported that the top Chinese Pentagon official was visiting the island. Michael Chase is only the second senior Defense Department official to visit the country since 1979, when the US switched diplomatic recognition for China from Taipei to Beijing.

On Thursday, Biden defended his decision to order the downing of the balloon that appeared over Alaska on January 28 and then flew over Canada and the United States. During its journey, the balloon flew over and hovered over a sensitive military site in Montana where the Pentagon maintains nuclear ICBM silos.

“We shot it down and sent a clear message. . . that violating our sovereignty is unacceptable.” US completes operation to recover debris from Chinese spy balloon

Adam Bradshaw

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