The U.S. military said on Monday it had recovered important electronic parts from a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down by a U.S. fighter jet off South Carolina on February 4, including sensors believed to be used for collecting information.
“The crew was able to recover a significant amount of debris from the scene, including all priority sensors and electronics,” US Northern Command said in a statement.
A Chinese balloon allegedly intended for intelligence gathering – denied to Beijing – flew over Canada and the United States for a week before President Joe Biden ordered it to be shot down. The episode strained relations between Washington and Beijing, forcing Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to postpone a trip to China.
It also led the US military to scour the skies for other objects that were not picked up by radar, resulting in three unprecedented attacks between Friday and Sunday.
The military and the Biden administration have acknowledged that much remains unknown about the latest drones, including how they stay in the air, who built them and whether they could gather intelligence.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tried to reassure Americans about the risks posed by unidentified objects.
“I want to reassure Americans that these facilities pose no military threat to anyone on earth,” Austin told reporters as he landed in Brussels for a NATO meeting. “However, they pose a danger to civil aviation and can become a threat in terms of intelligence gathering.”
The U.S. military said it was more difficult to shoot down later flying objects compared to the Chinese balloon, given the objects’ small size and lack of radio signals.
Austin said the US military has yet to find debris from the last three downed targets, one of which fell off the coast of Alaska. Another object was shot down over the Yukon in Canada.
US officials declined to link the incidents.
However, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that the four aerial targets shot down in recent days were related to each other in some way, without going into details.
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