Prior to the Chinese spy balloon that surfaced on January 28, 2023, the military had not discovered any spy balloons, according to a top US general who was in charge of shooting it down.
A brief about US fighter plane shoots down Chinese surveillance balloon under order from President Joe Biden
He went on to refer to it as a “awareness gap.”
The balloon was 200 feet tall, and General Glen VanHerck, commander of the US North American Aerospace Defense Command, estimated that the cargo beneath it weighted a few thousand pounds.
He left open the possibility that the balloon may have contained explosives.
Washington and many of its allies have been extremely concerned about US-China tensions, particularly over Taiwan. They fear that open hostilities will destroy the world economy, and last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine, in which China mostly allied with the Russians, made their worries much worse.
China and the US have also been at odds over other issues, such as China’s escalating aggression in the South and East China Seas, which has alarmed US allies including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand, in addition to Australia and New Zealand.
It was planned that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with President Xi Jinping in Beijing in an effort to defuse the escalating tensions between the two biggest economies in the world.
His trip was, however, cancelled late last week after heated exchanges between the US and China over the Chinese balloon.
The balloon incident has not harmed relations between the US and China, according to President Joe Biden.
Although both parties insist they would handle the matter calmly, there is little hope for rapprochement given the mutual accusations, especially in light of the Saturday balloon shoot-down that sparked a vehement Chinese protest.
The failure occurred just as both parties were looking for a means to perhaps recover from a tense period in relations that had everyone on edge.