By: Lenora Kirkland
On Feb. 1, just before a critical diplomatic meeting between U.S. representative Antony J. Blinken and Chinese president Xi Jinping, a Chinese spy balloon was spotted hovering over American airspace.
The balloon was first identified flying over Montana, moving east to where it was eventually shot down off the coast of South Carolina. The balloon flew over the United States for a full seven days before it was eventually shot down by the U.S. military.
Many Republican Congress members continue to criticize the Biden administration for its delayed response to the threat; however, reasons have been given for this inaction. Due to the size and composition of the balloon, the U.S. government was fearful that should the balloon be destroyed, debris from the explosion would harm civilians below. As a result, the military chose to shoot it down only after it had reached the Atlantic Ocean.
In light of this Chinese breach of American airspace, the talks that were set to occur between these two nations, have been postponed. It remains unclear whether or not the meeting will be rescheduled, or simply canceled altogether. This poses a severe blow to Chinese-American relations, which have been consistently complex, especially since China’s decision to support Russia in the Ukrainian war.
Congress is also divided over its understanding of the balloon’s set intent. Although the Chinese government has claimed that the balloon was being used for weather research, few are convinced that this is true.
That being said, the contents left over from the balloon are currently being analyzed to determine its exact purpose. “If you look at the path, and you put X’s where all our sensitive missile defense and nuclear weapons facilities are, I believe that they were trying to gain information on how to defeat the command and control of our nuclear weapons systems and our missile defense systems. That’s a crisis,” Mike Turner, Ohio representative and Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee said.
The affair has most certainly placed U.S. and Chinese relations in a place of uncertainty, as citizens of both countries, and of the world, begin to wonder how this issue will be resolved.
Sources: NPR, Time