Washington: The US believes that the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that it shot down on February 4 over the Atlantic Ocean, was part of a wider effort by Beijing to spy on military assets in other countries, including India.
Meanwhile, an Indian official had attended a briefing conducted by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Monday for representatives from 40 embassies.
These developments were first reported by The Washington Post citing unidentified US officials who further said that such a balloon had been sighted over five continents.
The Post reported that US officials believe the surveillance balloon effort, which has operated for several years partly out of Hainan province off China’s south coast, “has collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines”.
No other details were available of the spying on Indian military assets, not about the extent or time period.
“What the Chinese have done is taken an unbelievably old technology, and basically married it with modern communications and observation capabilities,” an official told the Post
The suspected Chinese spy balloon which was shot down by an American F-22 fighter jet over the Atlantic Ocean on February 4.
US defence officials had first announced they were tracking the “strange object” on February 2, and waited until it was safely over water before shooting it down.
The officials described it as a violation of American sovereignty and internal laws.
Debris of the balloon and its payload were salvaged off the coast of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina a day after it was shot down.
The development came at a time when the two countries were moving to put the relationship on an even keel, building on the first in-person summit between Presidents Joe Biden of the US and Xi Jingping of China on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called off a scheduled visit to Beijing for wide-ranging talks, including a meeting with President Xi, even after China had expressed regret in a rare display of contrition — it said the “airship” was meant to study weather and had strayed into American airspace.
China also expressed regret over the incident.