The Pentagon said Thursday that the Chinese balloon that wound up over the US in February did not collect data while it flew over US territory.
“We believe that it did not collect while it was transiting the United States or flying over the United States, and certainly the efforts that we made contributed, I’m sure,” said Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
Ryder made the comments when asked about a Wall Street Journal report that said the balloon contained US-made equipment. “I don’t have any specifics to provide as it pertains to the [People’s Republic of China] high altitude balloon and any potential US components,” he said.
For their part, Beijing has said the balloon was a civilian weather research device, while the Biden administration says it was a surveillance device. At this point, it has become clear that China did not intend to fly the balloon over the US, something President Biden recently acknowledged.
“That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was. It was blown off course up through Alaska and then down through the United States,” Biden said.
The Balloon incident caused a frenzy in Washington, causing Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a trip to China. Members of Congress demanded President Biden shoot down the balloon, which he eventually did when it was off the coast of South Carolina.
Following the downing of the Chinese balloon, the US downed three unidentified objects using four $400,000 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles. At least one was likely a small hobby balloon, known as a pico balloon, which can be purchased for as little as $12, depending on the type.
The White House has acknowledged that the three objects could have been “totally benign.” President Biden said they were likely “balloons tied to private companies, recreational or research institutions, studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”