The White House on February 13, 2023 denied Beijing’s accusation that the United States has been sending balloons over China to conduct surveillance, as tensions about espionage rise between the two superpowers.
“Any claim that the U.S. government operates surveillance balloons over the PRC is false,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on Twitter.
“It is China that has a high-altitude surveillance balloon program for intelligence collection, that it has used to violate the sovereignty of the U.S. and over 40 countries across 5 continents.”
The State Department responded with a similar rejection, and called Beijing’s accusation “the latest example of China scrambling to do damage control.”
“It has repeatedly and wrongly claimed the surveillance balloon it sent over the United States was a weather balloon and to this day has failed to offer any credible explanations for its intrusion into our airspace and the airspace of others,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
Earlier Monday China hit back against US charges of balloon espionage, accusing the United States of having sent more than 10 balloons into its airspace since January 2022.
Washington’s response marked the latest development in an increasingly tense saga that included the downing of an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month, after it had traversed much of the United States.
The U.S. military subsequently shot down three other unidentified objects over North America in recent days, sparking widespread jitters and speculation as to their origins.
Only the first object has been officially attributed to China, with Beijing insisting it was a civilian craft that had blown off course.
On Monday, White House spokesman John Kirby said US authorities “haven’t been able to gain access” yet to the latest three objects shot down, due largely to weather conditions which have slowed search and recovery operations.