Australia on alert for Chinese ‘spy’ balloon threat as US officials admit the devices have conducted missions over FIVE continents
- Chinese spy balloon was shot down in the US on Saturday
- It had been floating in the country’s airspace for a week
- Australian officials are on alert for foreign surveillance
China may have already sent a ‘spy’ balloon over Australia similar to the one that was shot down off the US east coast, or could send one in the near future, a top member of the Senate intelligence committee has said.
Tensions between the US and China hit a new low at the weekend as President Joe Biden ordered an F-22 Raptor jet to shoot down the balloon that had drifted over the United States for the past week – including over sensitive military sites.
It is unclear whether China has sent similar surveillance devices over Australia, however, one US official told Reuters the spy balloons have been spotted above five different continents.
A suspected Chinese spy balloon has been spotted floating over the United States for more than a week
An F-22 Raptor shot down the balloon using a missile off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday
‘Over the past several years, Chinese balloons have previously been spotted over countries across five continents, including in East Asia, South Asia and Europe,’ the official said.
Federal Liberal senator James Paterson, who previously chaired the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, said the Chinese balloon entering US airspace could have been a complete accident.
‘The Chinese are on a charm offensive and looking to reduce points of friction in their relationship both with the US and Australia,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.
‘It could very well have been a mistake as the Chinese military has fearsome capabilities but is not that competent, they haven’t fought a war in decades.’
However, Senator Paterson also said there was a possibility that Beijing had already floated a balloon or a similar spy device in Australian airspace, or could do so in the near future.
He added that the reason the public was aware of the balloon was because the media had ‘picked it up’, which forced the government to publicly acknowledge its existence.
Daily Mail Australia approached the office of Defence Minister Richard Marles with written questions about whether such balloons have been detected in or near Australia, but did not receive a response.
Liberal senator James Paterson, who chaired the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, claims the Chinese balloon entering US airspace could have been a mistake
Senator Paterson said there was a possibility that Beijing had already floated a balloon or a similar spy device in Australian airspace, or could do so in the near future (pictured, Australian gunners fire an artillery gun during an army firepower demonstration)
China slammed the US for shooting down the balloon, with officials saying it was only being used ‘for scientific research’ (pictured, high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Montana)
The appearance of the balloon has resulted in the US government postponing secretary of state Anthony Blinken’s planned visit to Beijing.
China has condemned the US for shooting the balloon, saying it was an ‘overreaction’ from the government.
Chinese officials claimed the device was being used ‘for scientific research such as meteorology’ only.
‘China had clearly asked the U.S. to handle this properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner,’ the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
‘The U.S. had insisted on using force, obviously overreacting.’