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US believes China nixed spy balloon operations after February shoot-down caused tensions to skyrocket

by

Daily Caller News Foundation

U.S. intelligence agencies believe China has suspended all surveillance balloon operations since the U.S. shoot-down of a high-altitude spy balloon in February further inflamed tensions between the great powers, CNN reported, citing U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence assessments.

After the shoot-down, officials and media reports revealed the craft, which had transited over the U.S. and surveilled sensitive military sites, represented one element of a broader Chinese Communist Party (CCP) program to quietly collectinformation on other countries. Chinese leaders have deliberately decided not to order any additional flights since American fighter jets downed the balloon on Feb. 4 in an incident that attracted worldwide attention and disrupted ongoing diplomatic initiatives, CNN reported, citing the officials.

No new launches have taken place since the incident, the officials told CNN.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the U.S. told the Daily Caller News Foundation the February incident was “unexpected” and “isolated.” China continues to deny the existence of a global spy balloon program, maintaining the balloon was civilian-operated weather airship blown off course by strong winds.

“Since the incident happened, China has stated repeatedly that the balloon is found to be an unmanned civilian airship used for meteorological and other research purposes, and that its accidental entry into U.S. airspace is entirely an unexpected, isolated incident caused by force majeure,” the embassy spokesperson said. “The facts are clear and shall not be distorted or misrepresented. We hope relevant parties can stop hyping up on this.”

At the time of the incident, the Biden administration had planned for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to meet with his counterpart in Beijing in a highly anticipated effort to restore broken communication channels between the two countries. The spy balloon incident compelled to administration to postpone Blinken’s trip.

CCP leaders did not intend the balloon to cross the U.S. from Alaska to the Carolinas and chastised the surveillance program’s operators, one of the sources told CNN.

In June, President Joe Biden suggested news of the balloon’s presence over the continental U.S. shocked Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to CNN. Xi “got very upset” after U.S. F-16s shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina because “he didn’t know it was there,” Biden remarked to guests at a political fundraiser, likening Xi to dictators who feel their status and power undermined when they don’t have a solid grasp of what’s going on.

The National Security Council and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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