Published On: Sun, Mar 3rd, 2024

FBI to probe possible Chinese spy craft debris discovered by Alaskan fishermen | US | News


The FBI will examine possible debris from a Chinese spy balloon that flew over Alaska early last year after fishermen reported the finding off the state’s coast on Friday.

An Alaskan fishing vessel carrying the debris is expected to return to the coast sometime this weekend and hand it over to the FBI for examination, sources told ABC News.

“The FBI is aware of debris found off the coast of Alaska by a commercial fishing vessel. We will work with our partners to assist with the logistics of the debris recovery,” the bureau said in a statement Friday.

Agency sources emphasized that it has not yet determined whether the craft is of foreign origin, but told the outlet that the recovered material will be taken to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, the same facility debris recovered from a confirmed Chinese spy craft last year was sent.

The United States shot down a Chinese spy balloon just off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, 2023, after American intelligence tracked the craft as it entered U.S. airspace over Alaska and then crossed the entire continental US.

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U.S. intelligence admitted at the time that the spycraft was not an isolated incident, and the latest debris found in Alaska could be of the same origin.

It comes after US fighter jets intercepted another high-altitude balloon over Utah late last month, but it was determined to be merely a hobbyist balloon and it eventually left American airspace, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said.

“The balloon was intercepted by NORAD fighters over Utah, who determined it was not manoeuvrable and did not present a threat to national security. NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon,” said NORAD.

“The FAA also determined the balloon posed no hazard to flight safety. NORAD remains in close coordination with the FAA to ensure flight safety.”

The spy balloon downed in early February heightened tensions between the US and China, with China initially claiming that last year’s balloons were simply weather balloons that had been blown off course and mistakenly entered U.S. airspace.

US authorities rejected the explanation, noting surveillance equipment found on the craft.

Officials cited by the Wall Street Journal in June last year said the balloon was equipped with US-made equipment that facilitated the collection of photos, videos and other information but didn’t appear to transmit them.

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However, days later, President Biden indicated the US was keen to move past the incident.

“It’s not a major breach. Look, the total amount of intelligence gathering that’s going on by every country around the world is overwhelming,” he told Telemundo on February 9.

Biden said the flight of the balloon was a “violation of international law,” but played down its significance.

‘China has some legitimate difficulties unrelated to the United States. And I think one of the things that that balloon caused was not so much that it got shot down, but I don’t think the leadership knew where it was and knew what was in it and knew what was going on,’ said Biden.

“I think it was more embarrassing than it was intentional,” he added.



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