China could send ‘multiple’ spy balloons to ’embarrass’ Biden

China could test the US by deploying multiple new balloons over its territory as a diplomatic row rages, a military analyst has told Rebekah Koffler, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, suggests Beijing might seek to “embarrass” the Biden administration by bombarding its airspace with surveillance balloons. “The Chinese military planners were likely emboldened by the fact that the Pentagon was highly risk averse during the current incident, having hesitated to take a shot,” she explained.

Biden has taken heat over his decision to put off shooting down the suspected spy balloon.

The device drifted across US airspace for seven days, loitering over sensitive areas of Montana where nuclear warheads are siloed.

“The Pentagon’s explanation was that shooting China’s airship, which is a military intelligence collection asset, posed a risk to people and facilities on the ground,” Koffler said.

Whatever the rationale, China will probably seize on this delay, the military analyst said.

READ MORE: Chinese balloon had ‘multiple antennas’ and was ‘clearly’ spying, US official says

“If you hesitate to take a shot at one balloon, what will you do about five, 10, or 20 balloons?” she said.

The decision to shoot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon on February 4 has dealt a further blow to US-China relations.

China insists the balloon was just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds and had only limited “self-steering” capabilities. It also issued a threat of “further actions”.

In a statement after the craft was shot down, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the use of force by the US was “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice”, adding: “China will resolutely uphold the relevant company’s legitimate rights and interests.”

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The US says it was a Chinese spy balloon without a doubt. Its presence prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a weekend trip to China aimed at dialing down tensions that were already high between the countries.

A US Air Force fighter jet shot down the vessel off the South Carolina coast on February 4 – seven days after it crossed into US airspace.

Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by material slowly drifting towards the water.

Navy divers began pulling debris from the depths of the ocean floor on Tuesday, using sophisticated reconnaissance drones dubbed the Kingfish and the Swordfish.

READ MORE: Espionage expert warns ‘China spying in ways you wouldn’t believe’ after balloon incursion

The debris was then taken to an FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia, and other sites where experts analyzed it.

According to a US Government update, the suspected Chinese balloon shot down over the weekend “had multiple antennas” and used equipment which was “clearly for intelligence surveillance”.

The device was “capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations” and has been deployed over “more than 40 countries across five continents”, a senior State Department official told a background briefing on Thursday.

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