OTTAWA: Canada’s Department of National Defence on Thursday (local time) said that it is working with the US to track a high-altitude suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, and it is monitoring a “potential second incident”.
“A high-altitude surveillance balloon was detected and its movements are being actively tracked by North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Canadians are safe and Canada is taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including the monitoring of a potential second incident,” stated the Department of National Defence press release.
NORAD, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence, and other partners have been assessing the situation and working in close coordination.
Canada’s intelligence agencies are working with American partners and continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard Canada’s sensitive information from foreign intelligence threats.
Meanwhile, the US said that it is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over US airspace for a few days, reported The Globe and Mail.
The Pentagon said that it decided not to shoot it down over concerns of hurting people on the ground.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin convened a meeting with senior Department of Defense leadership Wednesday to discuss the balloon, and it was decided not to take military action due to “the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field,” a senior US defense official said.
Responding to a media query about whether the balloon is from China or from any other country, a senior defense official said, “Yes, so, I mean, it is a surveillance balloon. And not to be — I’m not trying to be a wise guy. But the goal is surveillance. And clearly, they’re trying to fly this — this balloon over sensitive sites, one of which was just mentioned, to collect information. As I said, we do not judge that it provides significant value added over and above what they can currently collect in other means. But nevertheless, it’s something we’re watching closely.”
“It is not the first time that you had a balloon of this nature cross over the continental United States. It has happened a handful of other times over the past few years, including before this administration,” he added.
He also said with ‘high confidence’ that the defense department believed that the balloon is from China.
“So we do not doubt that this is a PRC balloon. And that is an assessment shared across our intelligence and analytic community. Why not shoot it down? We have to do the risk-reward here. So the first question is does it pose a threat — a physical kinetic threat to individuals in the United States or the US Homeland. Our assessment is it does not,” the defense official stated.
The defense official said the balloon was recently over Montana and that officials were considering bringing the plane down with military assets, but decided against doing so because of the risks associated, adding that US President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation and asked for military options, as per the statement.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder said, “The United States Government has detected and is tracking a high altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The US government, including NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the US government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces issued a joint statement Thursday night that says the balloon’s movements were being actively tracked by the North American Aerospace Defence Command.
However, the statement doesn’t mention China or state whether the surveillance balloon flew over Canadian airspace.
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