Canada watches ‘potential second incident’ related to Chinese spy balloon suspected to be flagged by US

Canada announced on Thursday that it was working with the United States to track a reconnaissance balloon over Earth, and said it was also monitoring a “potential second incident.”

Canada’s Department of Defense has announced that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a joint US-Canadian organization, is actively tracking “high-altitude surveillance balloons.” The announcement echoed what the Pentagon announced on Thursday.

The statement continued:

“NORAD, the Canadian Forces, the Department of Defense and other partners are assessing the situation and working closely together,” it added.

“Canadian intelligence agencies are working with our partners in the United States and continue to take all necessary steps to protect classified Canadian information from foreign intelligence threats.

“As the situation develops, we are in frequent contact with America’s allies.”

Official statements from Canada and the United States do not mention that the spy balloon is suspected to have come from China.However, Pentagon officials told reporters On condition of anonymity, the department has a “very high degree of confidence” that the balloon came from China.

The balloon flew over the northwestern United States, home to sensitive air force bases and strategic nuclear missiles. Montana is his one of her three homes of US siled nuclear weapons.

“Obviously the purpose of this balloon is surveillance,” the senior defense official said. “So the current flight path passes through many sensitive sites.”

“First, our best assessment at this time is that whatever surveillance payload is on this balloon, it [People’s Republic of China] It is highly likely that it can be collected through satellites in low-Earth orbit, etc.,” the official said.

“But with great care, we’ve taken additional mitigation measures. We won’t say what they are. But we know exactly where this balloon is and what it’s passing by. We are aware of it, and we have taken extra vigilant steps to help mitigate the risk of foreign intelligence activity.”

The official added that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin convened senior Pentagon officials on Wednesday to decide whether the balloon should be shot down.

However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Northcomm Commander Gen. Glenn Vanhak “strongly advised not to take dynamic action to threaten the safety and security of people on the ground wherever possible. Debris.” field.”

The senior defense official said he had raised the issue “urgently” to his Chinese counterparts “through the embassy here in Washington and the embassy in Beijing.”

“We have told them that we take this matter seriously,” the official said, adding, “But we have made it clear that we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our country. , we have options to deal with this balloon if the risk profile I just described changes.”

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning said Beijing was “confirming” the situation regarding the surveillance balloons. “Until the facts are clear, speculation and hype will not help us properly resolve the issue.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) announced on Twitter that he is requesting a Gang of Eight meeting in connection with the alleged Chinese spy balloon. Brazen disregard is a destabilizing act that must be addressed, and the President [Joe] Biden can’t sit still,” he added.

The Congressional “Gang of Eight” (colloquial term) includes the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader, as well as the Speakers and senior members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. increase. Members are responsible for congressional oversight of all intelligence agencies and are briefed on classified information by the executive branch.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said:

“The level of espionage directed against our country by the Chinese government has dramatically increased in intensity and blatant over the past five years,” he wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton (Republican) said on Twitter that Secretary of State Anthony Brinken “should cancel his trip to China.” Blinken is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the coming days. Cotton also said on Twitter that Biden “must answer why we are not securing US airspace.”

Reuters contributed to this report.