US’ baseless spy balloon accusation against China adds tensions to bilateral ties
Published: Feb 03, 2023 07:05 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

As the US officials and media are hyping so-called Chinese spy balloon over US territory, Chinese analysts from different fields refuted the sensational accusation as over the top and fantastical.

On Friday, the picture of a white balloon has been made the headlines in the US and some Western countries as Pentagon officials told several news outlets that a Chinese spy balloon hovering over Montana this week had a flight path that took it over several sensitive US military sites.

The balloon - about the size of three buses, is traveling at an altitude "well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground," Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters in a hastily arranged news conference where he addressed the ongoing situation, the Washington Post reported. 

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) continues to track the balloon's course, but officials would not specify its present whereabouts, the report said. 

US media also quoted anonymous Pentagon officials as saying that the balloon had traveled from China to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and through northwest Canada over the past few days before arriving somewhere over Montana, where it was hovering on Wednesday.

In response to a question regarding the balloon, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Friday that China is looking into the report regarding the balloon. 

"Before the facts are clear, any speculation and hype are not conducive to the settlement of the matter," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said.

Song Zhongping, a military expert hit back at the US arbitrary accusation against China, saying that this is the latest example of the US hyping the China threat, introducing various topics to attempt to destabilize China.

These kinds of stunts only serve to further strain bilateral relations and would also cast shadow on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's reported visit to China, Song told the Global Times. 

The US said that Blinken will visit China between February 5 and 6. No information has been released from the Chinese side as of press time. 

In responding to the spy balloon accusations from the US, Liu Ming, an expert on spatial information and technology, told the Global Times on Friday that a sounding balloon usually flies in the stratosphere with the wind with its flying direction hard to steer. 

Liu said that there once were cases for excessive-pressure balloons to accomplish intercontinental flies but according to the pictures of the balloon released by the US, it is of zero-pressure type which cannot have long-distance voyage. 

Liu speculated that it is more possible that the balloon comes from a commercial boat sailing along the US west coast as they usually send such balloons to monitor the weather. The US military also sometimes fly sounding balloons during exercises to attain radar information and ensure security. 

For example, some civilian boats would fly such kind of balloons when the US Naval Air Station North Island conducts military drills to get radar information to avoid clashes with the navy, said Liu. 

Huang Zhicheng, an expert on aerodynamics, told the Global Times that according to the information released by the US, the balloon spotted in the US is of 40 cubic meters and can "fly from China to the US," and only the US and China had the technical capacity to build this kind of balloon which can be directionally controlled, Huang said.

"If the US has concrete evidence to prove this balloon belongs to China, it shows China has exceeded the US in technologies in the domain," said Huang, noting that the US is capable to use fighters and satellites to supervise the balloon, it should make public more direct proof instead of launching groundless spying accusations.

Zhang Xuefeng, a Chinese military expert, said that it is utterly baseless for the US to say it is a spy balloon from China. 

China has satellite network and using this kind of balloon with such a terrible controllability and limited capability to carry 'spy missions' is meaningless, Zhang said.