The Chinese balloon that wound up over the continental United States likely ended up there by accident due to unexpected weather, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
US officials told the Post that US intelligence was tracking the balloon since it was launched from Hainan Island in southern China. They expected it to travel over the US territory of Guam, where the US is opening new military bases to prepare for a future war with China.
According to computer modeling conducted by the Post, the balloon was sent north due to a cold front and was then spotted over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Ordinary conditions would have kept the balloon on a more west-to-east course.
The balloon then headed east over Canada and was blown down to the US by strong winds. The Post report said US officials are unsure if the deviation was an accident but still insist the balloon was launched by China’s military for surveillance and say China took advantage of the fact that it ended up over the US for intelligence purposes.
For their part, China denies the balloon was a spy device and insists it was a weather balloon used for civilian purposes. The US shot the balloon down on February 4 once it was over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.
The balloon incident caused another crisis in US-China relations as Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to China. Beijing has since accused the US of flying 10 balloons in Chinese airspace since last year.