File photo showing a Chinese spy balloon overflying US territory in late January and early February 2023. EFE/EPA/NELL REDMOND -- BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE

US thinks Chinese balloon could have gathered intelligence info

Washington, Apr 3 (EFE).- The Chinese balloon that flew for thousands of miles over US territory in late January and was shot down by a US military jet just off the South Carolina coast on Feb. 4 could have been gathering intelligence information but Washington said Monday that the precautions it took prevented those data from being of any value to Beijing.

“We’re still doing an assessment of what the intel was that China was able to gather but we do know that the steps that we took provided little additive value to what they’ve been able to collect … from satellites before,” said Defense Department spokesperson Sabrina Singh.

The Chinese “spy” balloon spent a number of days overflying the continental US from Montana – where one of Washington’s three nuclear missile silo complexes is located – across Missouri and finally moved out over the Atlantic in South Carolina, where it was shot down by a military jet and recovered later from the water by US authorities.

Singh said that “We do know that the balloon was able to be maneuvred and purposely driven along its track,” but she did not go into detail about the areas over which it passed.

She insisted that US authorities acted to protect the country’s military installations and emphasized that intelligence services are still evaluating what kind of information China could have collected with the apparent spy device, which included a bus-sized equipment array suspended below the balloon.

She noted that US authorities began monitoring the balloon on Jan. 27 and had already verified that it was linked to China, taking measures to prevent or hinder any intelligence gathering.

Singh added that she could not confirm whether the balloon transmitted any real-time data back to Beijing.

The detection of the balloon sparked a bilateral crisis between Washington and the Asian giant, during which Beijing admitted that the balloon belonged to it but claimed that it was merely a weather data collection balloon that had gone off course and not any kind of espionage device.