The U.S. intelligence community has reportedly linked the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down late last week to a vast surveillance program being conducted by the Chinese military against numerous foreign nations.
The Washington Post reported that the balloon surveillance program operates out of the Hainan province in southern China and has targeted military assets in countries that are in Beijing’s crosshairs, including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
The Chinese military has operated the spy balloon over five continents, the report said. U.S. officials are now alerting military officials in other countries that they have been targeted by Chinese surveillance.
The Chinese military identified the opportunity to conduct surveillance from balloons that fly above commercial jetliners at an altitude of 60,000 to 80,000 feet. It’s unclear why China conducts the program since they can reportedly collect the same intelligence from their military satellite system, the report said.
The news comes after the U.S. military used an F-22 Raptor on Saturday to shoot down the spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean using a single air-to-air AIM-9X Sidewinder missile that was fired at an altitude of approximately 58,000 feet. The decision to shoot down the spy balloon came after President Joe Biden allowed it to fly thousands of miles over the continental U.S. last week.
The U.S. Navy released photographs Tuesday of the spy balloon as naval forces recovered it off the coast of South Carolina.
📍ATLANTIC OCEAN – @USNavy Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2023. pic.twitter.com/QwjSFQEw1b
— U.S. Fleet Forces (@USFleetForces) February 7, 2023
The New York Times reported that the Chinese are most interested in gathering intelligence about U.S. military bases in foreign countries but also wants information about the militaries of said nations.
This report has been updated to include additional information.