Washington:China has operated a fleet of spy balloons targeting several countries including India and Japan, a media report has said, days after the US military shot down a Chinese surveillance craft floating over sensitive installations in the country.
US officials have briefed its friends and allies including India on the finds of the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down by a fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
On Monday, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman briefed officials from about 40 embassies here about it.
“The surveillance balloon effort, which has operated for several years partly out of Hainan province off China’s south coast, has collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines,” The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The Post’s report was based on interviews with several anonymous defence and intelligence officials.
Officials have said these surveillance airships, operated in part by the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) air force, have been spotted over five continents, the daily reported.
“These balloons are all part of a PRC ( People’s Republic of China) fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations, which also violated the sovereignty of other countries,” a senior defence official was quoted as saying.
According to the daily, in recent years, at least four balloons have been spotted over Hawaii, Florida, Texas and Guam in addition to the one tracked last week.
Three of the four instances took place during the Trump administration but were only recently identified as Chinese surveillance airships, it said.
The Pentagon on Tuesday released a series of pictures recovering the high-altitude surveillance balloon.