February has been dominated with news about objects shot down in North American airspace, at least some of which have been linked to Chinese espionage missions.
First, a military aircraft demolished a suspected spy balloon just off of South Carolina’s coast after a journey that took the vessel across the continent. Since then, the U.S. military has responded in a similar manner to at least three other objects spotted in the sky above Alaska, Canada’s Yukon territory, and Michigan, respectively.
According to a subsequent statement from National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, these objects might just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to China’s ability to use aircraft in surveillance operations.
He asserted on Monday that the communist nation is believed to have sent high-altitude balloons to fly over dozens of nations in an effort to gather intelligence.
John Kirby confirms that "China has a high altitude balloon program for intelligence collection that's connected to the People's Liberation Army."
The "surveillance balloons have crossed over dozens of countries on multiple continents around the world." pic.twitter.com/Mz2GRjeQUr
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) February 13, 2023
Although the latter three objects have not been directly tied to such Chinese efforts, Kirby stated that the White House is in the process of creating a task force including officials from various federal agencies to “study the broader policy implications for detection, analysis, and disposition of unidentified aerial objects that pose either safety or security risks.”
Republican lawmakers have been critical of the Biden administration’s actions since the initial decision to allow the first balloon to float from over the entire country before shooting it down. Since then, even a few high-ranking Democrats have expressed their frustration with the White House’s tight-lipped approach to the situation.
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Jim Himes (D-CT), for example, expressed “real concerns” on Sunday about the perceived lack of transparency from the executive branch.
Although he acknowledged that there is probably “not a lot of information out there yet to share” about the second and third objects shot down over “very remote areas,” he said that it is important to address the situation head-on to address the “troubling” amount of conjecture currently dominating the public discourse.
“The one thing I see troubling … is massive speculation about alien invasions and additional Chinese or Russian action,” Himes concluded. “So I do hope the administration has a lot more information for all of us on what’s going on.”
His concerns were echoed by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who headed a hearing last week regarding the Chinese spy balloon. Days later he chided the Biden administration for its apparent inability to enact a coherent plan.
“What’s been going on the last … 10 days has been nothing short of craziness,” he said in an interview on Sunday. “The military needs to have the plan to not only determine what’s out there but determine the dangers that go with it.”