Downed spy balloon originally headed for Guam and Hawaii, says report
Updated: Feb 17
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
A Chinese balloon that was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month was originally aiming toward Guam and Hawaii before it was blown off course by winds, according to Reuters.
Citing an anonymous U.S. official, Reuters reported that the balloon drifted across Alaska's Aleutian Islands, then Canada and the central United States before it was shot down on Feb. 4.
Reuters said U.S. military and intelligence agencies tracked the balloon from when it lifted off from Hainan Island near China's south coast.
In a press conference on Feb. 8, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon's press secretary, said the U.S. intelligence community has found that the Chinese spy balloons are connected to a larger surveillance program run by China.
In total, U.S. fighter jets have shot down four "unidentified flying objects" that traversed U.S. airspace.
"These four are the ones we've assessed," Ryder said, "What they were looking to surveil were strategic sites to include our strategic bases in the continental U.S."
In a separate press conference at the White House earlier this week, John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, said the Pentagon has determined that China has a high-altitude balloon program for intelligence collection that's connected to the People's Liberation Army.
"It was operating during the previous administration, but they did not detect it. We detected it," he said,
"We tracked it. And, we have been carefully studying it to learn as much as we can. We know that these surveillance balloons have crossed over dozens of countries on multiple continents around the world, including some of our closest allies and partners," Kirby added.