The U.S. intelligence community has linked the Chinese spy balloon shot down on Saturday to a vast surveillance program run by the People’s Liberation Army, and U.S. officials have begun to brief allies and partners who have been similarly targeted.
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, according to several U.S. officials, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
Officials have said these surveillance airships, operated in part by the PLA air force, have been spotted over five continents.
“What the Chinese have done is taken an unbelievably old technology, and basically married it with modern communications and observation capabilities” to try to glean intelligence on other nations’ militaries, said one official. “It’s a massive effort.” [Continue reading…]