The United States has concluded its efforts to collect the remains of a Chinese spy balloon that it shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4.
U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which oversees the defense for much of North America, said in a Feb. 17 statement that the final pieces of the debris had been collected and would be given to the FBI for analysis.
“Recovery operations concluded Feb. 16 off the coast of South Carolina, after U.S. Navy assets assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully located and retrieved debris from the high-altitude PRC surveillance balloon shot down Feb. 4, 2023,” NORTHCOM said.
“Final pieces of debris are being transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in Virginia for counterintelligence exploitation, as has occurred with the previous surface and subsurface debris recovered.”
The FBI is currently examining critical electronics from the spy balloon in the hopes of learning more about its capabilities, mission, and what information it may have relayed back to China.
Little is yet known about the full onboard suite the giant balloon carried, but the State Department has said the payload included signals intelligence equipment possibly intended to covertly intercept communications.
Relatedly, the United States has accused China’s communist regime of using the balloon and others like it in a years-long espionage campaign that has spanned 40 nations and five continents.
During a press briefing on Feb. 8, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was sharing intelligence with the other targeted nations, and that it had used new intelligence to uncover four previous incidents in which Chinese spy balloons illegally incurred into U.S. airspace.
Also on Feb. 8, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that similar balloons had illegally entered U.S. airspace on at least four other occasions, each in apparent efforts to spy on “strategic sites,” in the continental United States.
The Chinese incursion into U.S. airspace caused a furor in Congress, with both the House and Senate passing formal resolutions condemning China for the incident.
The Biden administration has since issued sanctions on six Chinese entities believed to be connected to the regime’s spy balloon program.
Beyond those sanctions, however, the administration appears reluctant to impose further political costs on China, with Biden saying on Feb. 16 that he is committed to “engage with China” and keep all lines of communication open.
From The Epoch Times