Multiple Defense Agencies Examining Possible Spy Balloon Found off Alaska Coast: Pentagon

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
March 6, 2024US News
Multiple Defense Agencies Examining Possible Spy Balloon Found off Alaska Coast: Pentagon
A U.S. Air Force pilot looked down at the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovered over the Central Continental United States on Feb. 3, 2023. Recovery efforts began shortly after the balloon was downed. (Department of Defense via Getty Images)

Multiple defense agencies will analyze the debris of an unidentified high-altitude balloon recovered in waters near Alaska, according to the Pentagon.

Last week, fishermen found the debris off the coast of Alaska after it flew over the western continental United States.

Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough said defense officials would not yet characterize it as a spy balloon but that a number of agencies are looking into it.

“The debris is currently at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and has been transferred to a DoD facility,” Ms. Gough said in an emailed statement, using the acronym for Department of Defense.

“We do not know why the balloon was in the waters off the coast of Alaska, nor are we going to characterize it at this time, but hope to learn more about the balloon’s origin and purpose after further analysis of the material, which will be conducted by multiple agencies.”

The Pentagon’s confirmation on Wednesday marked the first public acknowledgment that the discovered object was indeed a balloon.

Last Friday, fishermen came across the debris. Upon finding the suspicious object, the fishermen promptly alerted law enforcement, providing photos that raised concerns among local officials, leading them to involve the FBI.

At the time of discovery, the nature of the object was unclear, and officials were uncertain if it was a balloon at all. Nevertheless, the FBI determined that its resemblance to a surveillance balloon owned by a foreign government was significant enough to justify further investigation.

Last month, the U.S. military monitored the balloon’s trajectory across the western United States.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), responsible for overseeing North American airspace in collaboration with Canada, assessed that it did not pose an immediate threat.

A NORAD spokesperson previously told The Epoch Times that it and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) detected the small balloon flying at an altitude fluctuating between 43,000 and 45,000 feet.

NORAD fighters intercepted the balloon over Utah and determined that it lacked maneuverability, posing no threat to national security. The FAA also confirmed that it did not pose a hazard to flight safety.

The incident comes about one year after a significant diplomatic incident involving a Chinese spy balloon that was allowed to traverse the continental United States. It passed over three sites linked to the nation’s nuclear program before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina.

The previous espionage-linked balloon, observers say, was part of a broader campaign orchestrated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which governs China as a single-party state.

Spy balloon
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Feb. 5, 2023. (U.S. Navy via AP)

Unlike the balloon recovered near Alaska, the CCP spy balloon shot down on the U.S. East Coast possessed maneuverability and housed an extensive array of electronics and power sources.

According to U.S. officials, the CCP-linked balloon fleet has undertaken at least two dozen missions spanning five continents, including in Latin America, in recent years.

The Pentagon acknowledged an “awareness gap” that allowed three other Chinese spy balloons to traverse U.S. territory during the Trump administration. This caused the United States to revise its protocols for identifying and tracking similar objects on radar.

In the last two months, Taiwan has accused Beijing of sending multiple balloons through its airspace.

Eight Chinese balloons crossed the Taiwan Strait in the 24 hours leading to the morning of Feb. 11, as reported by Taiwan’s defense ministry.

Taiwan started including data on Chinese balloon sightings in its daily reports on the CCP’s military activities in December 2023, though China had been sending balloons near the self-governed island for years.

The CCP asserts territorial claims over Taiwan, vowing to use force if necessary, while the regime’s leader, Xi Jinping, remains committed to achieving “reunification” with democratically governed Taiwan despite the CCP never having ruled the island.

Dorothy Li and Andrew Thornebrooke contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.