The Chinese spy balloon that traveled across the United States before being shot down by the US military has caused great concern on Capitol Hill because it came on the heels of a classified report describing hostile incidents from countries that possibly use advanced aerial technology to spy the country.
The classified report submitted to Congress last month discussed at least two incidents of a rival force conducting air surveillance using what appeared to be unknown sophisticated technology, according to US officials who told The New York Times.
While the report did not attribute the incidents to any country, two US officials familiar with the investigation said the surveillance may have been carried out by China. The report on what intelligence services call unidentified weather phenomena focused on several incidents believed to be espionage and surveillance operations. Some of these incidents involved balloons, while others involved quadcopter drones.
Many countries use aerial espionage technology to gather data on rival nations, as well as allies and partners, and to glimpse remote parts of the world, but the practice can lead to further diplomatic crises and military tensions when it goes wrong.
In 2001, a US Navy intelligence plane collided with a Chinese interceptor plane near the Chinese island of Hainan. The accident resulted in the death of a Chinese pilot and led to a diplomatic crisis between the leaders of the two countries.
US defense officials believe that China monitors military training areas
China spends about $209 billion, or 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product, on its military overall, according to the Pentagon report. But policymakers in Washington are particularly concerned about its investments in technologies that could have a military or intelligence applications.
US defense officials believe that China monitors military training areas and exercises as part of an effort to better understand how America trains its pilots and conducts complex military operations.
Officials said the locations where the unusual surveillance took place included a military base in the United States and a base abroad. A US official said the classified report named Fallon Air Force Station in Nevada and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan as locations where foreign surveillance operations were believed to have occurred but did not explicitly say that China was behind the actions.
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