© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. and Chinese language flags are seen on this illustration taken, January 30, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
By Steve Holland, Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China’s flight of a suspected surveillance balloon over the US seems to mark a extra aggressive – albeit puzzling – espionage tactic than counting on satellites and the theft of business and protection secrets and techniques, safety consultants stated.
Each the US and China have for many years used surveillance satellites to regulate one another from the air. However China’s latest balloons – a White Home official stated this week’s episode was not the primary – have some in Washington scratching their heads.
“In a means, it is extra amateurish,” stated former White Home nationwide safety adviser John Bolton. “Do the cameras of their satellites not have excessive sufficient decision that they should ship a balloon over?”
The uproar over the balloon comes as China has been increase its army capabilities and difficult America’s army presence within the Pacific. The USA additionally believes Beijing routinely seeks to seize proprietary data and information from U.S. corporations.
China on Friday stated the balloon was for civilian meteorological and scientific functions. It has beforehand rebuffed accusations of espionage and stated the US holds a Chilly Battle mentality and hypes up the ‘China risk.’
The balloon found this week appeared intentionally provocative, stated Dean Cheng, senior advisor to the China program on the U.S. Institute of Peace.
“It is a strategy to take a look at how does the opposite aspect reply, not in a army sense. However politically, what do you do about it? Do you retain it quiet? If there have been actually many and this isn’t the primary time, then it raises an attention-grabbing query. What occurred to the earlier ones? Did we shoot them down?” he stated.
FBI Director Christopher Wray stated in 2020 that the best long-term risk to U.S. data and mental property was “the counterintelligence and financial espionage risk from China.”
China’s alleged clamor for American commerce secrets and techniques has been so sweeping that the FBI estimated final October that it was opening a brand new Chinese language counter-intelligence operation each 12 hours.
A extra frequent spying tactic by China in latest many years, consultants say, has been to make use of graduate college students and different people with ties to China to achieve entry to delicate supplies by learning at analysis universities, working at expertise corporations or hacking into their pc networks.
“The issue with China is much extra within the tutorial, scientific world,” stated Mark Zaid, a Washington lawyer who’s concerned in varied nationwide safety circumstances.
“There isn’t any doubt that that dynamic is altering and the Chinese language have gotten extra aggressive for no matter purpose.”
The USA has been additionally been accused of spying by China.
Earlier than the usage of spy satellites, the US used high-altitude plane that might not simply be shot down and flew them over the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, for instance.
U.S.-China relations plunged in April 2001 when a U.S. Navy EP-3E alerts intelligence plane collided with a Chinese language fighter jet in mid-air over the South China Sea about 70 miles away from China’s Hainan province.
In 2009, the Pentagon stated 5 Chinese language ships together with a naval vessel harassed U.S. Navy ship the USNS Impeccable, an unarmed ocean surveillance vessel, in worldwide waters off Hainan. China stated the U.S. ship was finishing up an unlawful survey off the island province.