Balloon episode disturbs US-China ties - GulfToday

Balloon episode disturbs US-China ties

The Chinese balloon and its trajectory to the US skies. (Image via Twitter)

The Chinese balloon and its trajectory to the US skies. (Image via Twitter)"

The Americans have no doubt that the Chinese balloon was a spy balloon, especially after it changed its course from flying over Canadian territory to the north and crossed over into the United States, and passed over Nebraska and Idaho, where sensitive nuclear and missile bases are located. According to American intelligence sources, the balloon became a serious matter after it flew over some states and sites with high security military bases, and it was then that it was decided to shoot it down. Even as flustered Americans were trying to get a plan in place to deal with the intruding balloon, President Joe Biden had a high security meeting and ordered that it should be shot down. The balloon took another surprising turn when it moved to South Carolina and the eastern coast. The balloon was shot down by a F-22 fighter plane using a missile, and the debris fell over water. There was the fear that if it was shot down over land, then the falling debris would have posed a danger to people and buildings. And as the Americans concluded that it was a surveillance balloon, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off his two-day visit to Beijing. Chia’s position was that it was a civilian balloon with equipment to gather meteorological data, and that it strayed into American air space accidentally. Of course, the Americans refused to accept the Chinese story. After it was shot down, China reacted strongly sand said that it would retaliate, and that the Americans have over-reacted.

It should not come as a surprise that the United States and China, the first and second largest economies in the world, are also the rivals, ideological, strategic and economic. Each seems to watch the other with caution and apprehension. To say that there is trust deficit between the two big economies would be an understatement. But there is the realization on both sides China and the US will have to deal with each other, and communication channels should be maintained. This was one of the decisions that came out of the three-hour meeting that President Biden had with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G2 summit at Bali in Indonesia last November. Blinken’s slated visit to China was part of the regular official level meetings that Biden and Xi decided on. It is being speculated that though China has reacted quite strongly to the shooting down of its balloon, it would not seriously impact relations between the two countries.

The puzzle, however, remains whether the Chinese balloon was a civilian craft out to collect meteorological data, or whether it is a spy balloon as suspected by the Americans because the balloon changed direction, flew over militarily sensitive areas, and even hovered above the sites. Was the balloon’s steering system equipped with a pre-determined flight path, covering American military bases? The Chinese of course have denied it was a spy balloon. And the only reasonable that the world could have known is the truth was if the balloon was not shot down, and a way found to save the data-collection equipment in the balloon.

Now that the balloon is shot down, the Americans and the Chinese can stick to their respective versions without the fear of being contradicted. It is being admitted that this not the first instance of a Chinese spy balloon flying over America. However, this does not help to establish the facts. America can plead that they had to fire a missile from a fighter jet 60,000 feet above the earth and over the sea because of the fear of damage that the debris could have caused.

But it should have been possible to intercept that balloon and jam the equipment, interrupting the flow of information. It appears that either the Americans did not want to capture the balloon or they did not have the means of guiding the balloon to land safely.

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