Documents leaked by Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old intelligence operative with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, revealed that American intelligence agencies were aware of at least four additional occasions where Chinese spy balloons monitored U.S. activities.
One such incident involved a Chinese spy balloon observing a carrier strike group in the Pacific Ocean and another reportedly crashed in the South China Sea, according to the Washington Post.
The balloons, which carry sophisticated sensors and antenna technology, were detailed in a report created by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on February 15.
Speaking on conditions of anonymity, a federal official told the Post that the “government naming convention for such balloons is alphabetical, from A to Z. It appears that the balloons are named after notorious criminals, including Tony Accardo, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, and Donald Killeen,” journalists Evan Hill, Cate Cadell, Ellen Nakashima, and Christian Shepherd wroe.
The news comes as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reportedly refuses to allow Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Beijing amid concerns that the FBI might publicize an investigation into the balloon affair.
The CCP is “firmly opposed to the US continuously making use of the [balloon] incident for political purposes and hyping up the ‘China threat,’” the Chinese embassy in Washington told the Financial Times which first broke the story on Friday.
China “cannot but seriously question the independence, openness and transparency of the so-called investigation,” spokesman Liu Pengyu added.
“Beijing is distrustful of US intent and worries the US will use the information gleaned from the balloon investigation in ways harmful to Chinese interests,” Bonnie Glaser, a China expert told Times.
“In many ways, we are more eager for this visit than they are,” Dennis Wilder, a former George W. Bush advisor told the Times. “They don’t have the incentive to make this visit happen quickly. In that sense, for the Chinese, the downsides of waiting are not great.”
For his part, Secretary Blinken has remained open to visiting the People’s Republic. “When it comes to my own visit to China, when the conditions are right I’ll certainly look forward to pursuing that,” Blinken told the Times.
Keeping open “channels of communication” between the two superpowers “speaking to each other clearly” is essential.