Feb 5, 2023

China Has Responded After U.S. Shot Down Suspected Spy Balloon Transcript

China Has Responded After U.S. Shot Down Suspected Spy Balloon Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsChinaChina Has Responded After U.S. Shot Down Suspected Spy Balloon Transcript

China expressed its “strong dissatisfaction and protest” after the US shot down a suspected spy balloon. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

News, Ivan Watson is standing by in Hong Kong with the latest from there. Ivan, China doubling down, issuing some strong words after the US downed the balloon.

Ivan Watson (00:10):

That’s right. Beijing is now saying that essentially, if the US flies a balloon over China, it’ll probably shoot it down. Look at this statement coming from the Chinese defense ministry. “The US used force to attack our civilian unmanned airship, which is an obvious overreaction. We express solemn protest against this move by the US side and reserve the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations.” There has been a shift in the tone from Beijing. On Friday evening the Chinese foreign ministry expressed regret, saying that it’s airship, as it described it, which was used primarily for research purposes, had blown off course over the US. And now the Chinese government, different ministries are protesting the fact that this US fighter jet shot the balloon down.

The damage on the diplomatic front has already been visible with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken postponing a trip that he was supposed to make this weekend to Beijing over this balloon scandal, and calling the existence of this balloon over US airspace a violation of US sovereignty and of international law.

The Chinese response has been, “Hey, this is due to weather. It’s out of our control.” They have been communicating with their US counterparts, but this has clearly done some damage to what was an effort the began in November between President Biden and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping when they met face-to-face at the G20 Summit in Bali to try to basically put a stop to the downward spiraling relations between the world’s two largest economies. We’ll just have to see whether there can be any efforts to revive diplomacy in the wake of this, I would argue, a growing crisis.

Speaker 1 (02:10):

How was this incident seen in the region?

Ivan Watson (02:13):

Well, look, it is creating repercussions elsewhere. The Canadian government came out over the weekend saying that this balloon had been seen in Canadian airspace. It summoned China’s ambassador to Ottawa then. And now we’re getting reports of a second object flying over Central and Latin America that looks remarkably similar to the balloon that was just shot down over the US. It was seen over Costa Rica according to Costa Rica officials on Thursday. And then on Friday, the Columbian Air Force put out this statement saying that this object was seen at an altitude of above 55,000 feet, which is roughly the same altitude as the balloon that was seen over the US, that it was monitored and it was moving at a speed of 25 knots, and that the Colombians followed it until it left Colombian airspace. A US official telling CNN they believe that this also is, as they put it, a Chinese surveillance balloon.

We have put a question into the Chinese government asking whether or not this is in fact a Chinese airship, as they’ve put it, about the previous balloon that was seen over US airspace. And also US officials have said that they have also seen similar Chinese, as they put it, surveillance balloons three times over US airspace during the Trump administration and at least once over the US earlier during the Biden administration. Sorry to do this. Why has this blown up this time? Well, US officials say they haven’t seen it loitering over US airspace for such a duration of time in the past, and we don’t know that ordinary citizens have been able to see this kind of balloon with their own eyes, with the naked eye, and take pictures of it before. And that’s part of what’s adding to the alarm here.

Speaker 1 (04:14):

Ivan Watson reporting from Hong Kong. Thanks so much, Ivan. Mary Schiavo is a CNN transportation analyst. She joins us now from Anchorage, Alaska. So good to see you, Mary. Incidentally, the balloon, we understand was first detected last Saturday over Alaska. It’s now in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere after quite a journey. How long do we expect the salvage operation to take?

Mary Schiavo (04:39):

Well, actually, the United States and several other countries are very experienced in these underwater salvage operations because of downed aircraft over the past and for many years, and other underwater operations. So it’s really going to depend upon how lucky they are at finding the payload package, the debris, if you will, the equipment, or whatever fell from the balloon, and without what they call a pinger. Many times there are devices that help you locate. For example, black boxes on down planes. But here they don’t expect to find that. So they will just have to literally scour the ocean floor. But many of the world’s nations are quite experienced at underwater recovery operations.

Speaker 1 (05:21):

And Mary, once the parts are salvaged, will it be obvious whether investigators are dealing with a spying contraption or a weather tracker? Will that be obvious right away? And what will they hope to learn by studying the balloon?

Mary Schiavo (05:35):

Well, it should be obvious, but then there’s a big if here. That depends upon how well the equipment survived the fall. Now, people think that water breaks your fall, but literally from falling from that height, it’s like hitting concrete. It’s a very hard fall. So they will have to see what is left and what’s there to determine it. It could, of course, be possible they will have the equipment, but they can’t recover any data from it because of exposure to salt water or because of the impact. But the United States and other countries that have experience in underwater recovery of aircraft parts and black boxes and equipment are pretty good at downloading information and putting it back together because of investigations from prior aviation accidents.

Speaker 1 (06:21):

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, I understand. Other suspected spy balloons have transited across continental US.

Mary Schiavo (06:31):

That’s right. They’re reporting now, and I think the public sightings play a big role in this and what’s happened this time, because now the government is saying that this has been happening for as long as five or more years. There was one sighted over Hawaii in February of 2022, just a year ago. Now the Costa Rica sighting, the Columbia sighting. So it’s very difficult to combine that with the story that it was just one balloon that escaped from China. So I think that’s part of the problem here. It’s just too many to believe the explanation.

Speaker 1 (07:06):

If it turns out to be a spying balloon, this still needs to be determined. Why use a balloon for spying when you can use satellites? I mean, are they more effective? Because they’re certainly not subtle.

Mary Schiavo (07:20):

Well, and the speculation in US and other circles in other places is, of course, they’re searching for something that the satellites can’t pick up, other kinds of detection. Communication signals, radiation signatures, other kinds of things that the satellites can’t possibly pick up. So this would be a different kind of sensing equipment, most likely. Because if you’re looking for a visual sighting, obviously satellite technology is so great that you can get pictures down to a few feet or in some cases a few inches. So the technology on the satellites, if it’s some kind of a visual sensing is amazingly good. So the fact that some people speculate they were looking to locate US missile silos, probably not. I’m sure they already know that. So this would be other kind of sensing equipment. And the speculation is most likely some kind of communication sensing, radiation, microwaves, or other things that you could not readily sense from a satellite.

Speaker 1 (08:23):

And a final thought from you, Mary. Could Beijing ask to have the wreckage returned? I mean, what’s the protocol in these situations, if there is a protocol?

Mary Schiavo (08:31):

Well, that kind of thing is… That’s a very interesting question. And that has happened in the past. And the US has been in similar situations where they have had equipment, ships, planes, you name it, returned many, many years ago before many probably listening were even born. The US had a spy plane that was shot down. And of course, the US asked to have it returned. They could ask to have it returned.

But when the shoe was on the other foot, and other countries, China, et cetera, got equipment from the United States, they didn’t return it. And they certainly didn’t return it until they saw what was on it. And because it did traverse the US airspace… Now they say, “Well, you shot down a civilian aircraft.” Not exactly. When you traverse the airspace of other countries, there are treaties in place that govern that. You have to give advice and permission, et cetera. And we don’t have those same treaties in place with China, by the way. They’re not the same for all countries of the world. So it did invade the airspace without permission. And of course, the advisory that came too little too late doesn’t explain it. So I think that the US will keep it.

Speaker 1 (09:43):

Mary Schiavo, thank you so much. Greatly appreciate you. Thank you.

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