Just like a good “thriller” that gets complicated with script twists, unexpected characters and plot caroms. The soap opera that started a week ago when the US detected an alleged Chinese spy balloon flying over its territory is on its way to becoming worthy of Hollywood. Ingredients are not lacking. If already last Saturday his chronicle was complicated by the demolition of the supposed espionage apparatus and the appearance of another balloon in Latin America, in the last hours the story has directly taken on overtones almost, almost science fiction.
Let’s review. On Friday, the US reported that it had shot down an unknown flying “object” in Alaska and in the last few hours it’s been canada the one that claims to have carried out a demolition, on Saturday, over Yukon, in an operation with the US. That’s all? No. According to The Paper, in China they would be preparing to shoot down an unidentified object that flies over the waters near Qingdao.
At the moment, yes, the different elements that make up the story are connected by context and times more than for a real link.
Just yesterday, the US recognized that the object shot down in Alaska was different from the Chinese balloon and that it was unaware of both its origin and function. Nor does Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau allude to any relationship with the Chinese apparatus in the tweets he wrote to report the operation carried out in Canada.
Let’s go by parts.
From balloons to “objects”
Pat Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary.
The first chapter was written last week, the February 2, to be more precise, when the US Department of Defense claimed that it had detected a “high-altitude surveillance balloon”. From the beginning it was pointed out that its origin was Chinese and its purpose was espionage. Beijing recognized it as its own, but adding that its function was quite another: the device, it guaranteed, was civil and its purpose was merely scientific and meteorological study.
It was of little use. The US ended up shooting down the balloon over Atlantic waters, a decision that Beijing called “exaggerated”. “This matter should be dealt with calmly without the use of force,” he said. Beyond the controversy or the function of the apparatus, the truth is that the incident frustrated almost in extremis the planned trip by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to China, which would have been the first official visit by a senior US official to China. Asian giant since 2018.
Did the story stop there? No. Shortly after, the Pentagon claimed to have identified a second balloon about Latin America. “We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. Now we assess that it is another Chinese surveillance balloon, ”explains General Pat Ryder to The Washington Post.
I ordered the take down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace. @NORADCommand shot down the object over the Yukon. Canadian and U.S. aircraft were scrambled, and a U.S. F-22 successfully fired at the object.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 11, 2023
The next chapter came a few days ago, on Thursday, when the Pentagon identified an “object” flying at an altitude of about 40,000 feet, equivalent to 12,200 meters, for which reason it posed “a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flights.” For that reason, an Air Force F-22 fighter ended up shooting him down off the coast of Alaska. US authorities knew it was the size of a small car, but little else: no origin, no purpose.
“It is nothing like the Chinese surveillance balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina earlier this week,” the Department of Defense settled. The chronicle could end there, but again there was an unforeseen script twist.
Yesterday Trudeau provided more information: “I ordered the shooting down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace. @NORADCommand shot down the object over the Yukon. Canadian and American planes were mobilized and an American F-22 successfully fired at the object”, the leader tweeted.
Bloomberg, The Guardian or CNN point out that this would be the third object shot down by combat planes in North American airspace in just one week, after the Chinese balloon days ago and the other unidentified object from Alaska. “It appears to be a small, cylindrical object,” Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand explained: “It poses a threat to the safety of civilian flights.” The leader refused to speculation about its possible origin.
China spots mystery object over waters near northern port city https://t.co/JTaQdyN0Ko
— South China Morning Post (@SCMPNews) February 12, 2023
The objective of the Canadians is now to recover the remains of the downed object, an effort to which the US has also dedicated itself with the fragments of the balloon and the second device. Its authorities also decided to order the temporary closure of the airspace over Montana on Saturday after detecting a “radar anomaly” that could not be confirmed in situ, with airplanes.
As the climax of the story, Bloomberg echoed today information advanced by The Paper on a similar subject… only thousands of kilometers from North America. According to him, China would be preparing to knock down an unidentified object detected over waters near Qingdao. Europa Press picks up the news alluding to the Shandong authorities.
The Qingdao Marine Development Bureau would have already informed the small vessels. “If debris falls around your boat, help take pictures as evidence. If conditions allow, help save it,” says a message collected by the Hong Kong newspaper The China South Morning Post.
Latest? chapter so far of what has already been dubbed the “balloon crisis”. Although at the moment there are more unknown objects than balloons.
Cover image: PACAF (Flickr)