According to three unnamed current and former US officials quoted by NBC News, China allegedly tried to quicken the flight of the balloon over the US after the administration of President Joe Biden accused Beijing of sending the craft to observe American targets.
On Monday, the news source released fresh information regarding how Washington saw the balloon incident. In contrast to what US officials claimed, the Chinese government has maintained that the aircraft was a scientific meteorological plane that accidentally entered American airspace.
According to NBC News sources, China was able to control the balloon “such that it could make several passes over some of the sites” it intended to target for electronic signal collection. The operators allegedly “raised its speed” after its existence was made public in early February in an effort “to get it out of American airspace as quickly as possible.”
The US government was allegedly interfering with the balloon’s mission by shifting prospective targets and preventing them from broadcasting. The unidentified officials claimed that without these measures, “China could have gotten considerably more intelligence from key places.”
The media outlet reported that its sources had declined to identify the Chinese group in charge of the expedition. The officials continued to assert that the plane had a self-destruct system that could have been activated remotely but, for some reason, didn’t.
The high-altitude aircraft travelled over a significant portion of the nation before being shot down by the US Air Force on February 4 off the coast of South Carolina. The aircraft first entered US airspace around Alaska in late January. One of the mission’s purported targets was the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which houses some of the US’s nuclear arsenal.
President Biden’s domestic adversaries condemned him for what they viewed as a hesitation to shoot down the Chinese vessel, a hesitation that his administration justified as being due to safety concerns. It claimed that because it had no control over where the debris would land, it would have to wait until the balloon had left the ground.
The US has a history of pointing out items that it believes could be used by Beijing for espionage, such as Chinese exchange students, cranes produced in China but are located in American ports, and TikTok, a country’s video-sharing app.