Suspicious Chinese balloon grabs the attention of experts in Madison

The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 10:35 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A huge, high-altitude Chinese balloon sailed across the U.S. on Friday, drawing severe Pentagon accusations of spying on sensitive military sites despite China’s firm denials. Secretary of State Antony Blinken abruptly canceled a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing U.S.-China tensions.

The balloon also grabbed the attention of experts here in Madison. One expert says U.S. officials are taking a close look at the hovering balloon and might not view it as a direct threat.

Associate Director of the Center for East Asian Studies David Fields says this is a time to trust professionals who are watching the balloon. Military officials have advised President Biden not to shoot it down due to fear the debris could pose a safety threat to people on the ground.

Fields says there is probably pressure placed on the Biden Administration to do something about it. Blinken recently canceled his trip to Beijing after finding out about the suspicious balloon.

“I think there was probably pressure placed on the Biden Administration to do something about this and that, maybe is part of the reason behind Antony Blinken’s canceling his visit to China,” Fields said. “Which I think is a real shame because I think this is the very kind of thing that it would be good to talk to the Chinese about.”

Fields says his visit would have been a perfect opportunity to ask about the balloon and its full purpose.

“The statements that are coming out of Washington carefully, it seems like this is not the first time in the last few years that balloons like this have been spotted, at least by military assets,” Fields said. “It might be the first time they’ve been spotted by the public, but it seems pretty clear that this is not anything new.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the balloon is used mainly for meteorological research and entered U.S. airspace accidentally.

Fields says this a chance to point out this is something that the U.S. does to other countries as well. He says American low-Earth-orbit satellites are orbiting the world.

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