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US Sanctions 6 Chinese Firms over Spy Balloon Programs

Lawmakers have raised the alarm after a Chinese spy balloon was spotted over U.S. territory on Feb. 4. On February 4, a U.S. F-22 fighter jet shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon that had been flying over the United States for days, including near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and other U.S. military bases. 


Over the past few days, both U.S. and Canadian officials have heard about more incidents. On Saturday, an F-22 shot down an unidentified object near the Yukon Territory. The day before, an F-22 shot down an object near Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska.


The repeated intrusion of a high-altitude balloon into U.S. airspace has angered people in Washington and brought attention back to the threat the Chinese government poses to the U.S. and its allies. 


In response to the incident, the U.S. blacklisted six Chinese businesses on Friday that it discovered had assisted Beijing's surveillance balloon projects.


In a statement released on February 10, the Commerce Department named five companies and a research institute that are helping the Chinese military, also called the People's Liberation Army, with "aerospace programs, including airships and balloons and related materials and components" (PLA).


The addition of the Chinese government-owned defense firms and contractors to the Commerce Department’s roster of blacklisted firms is consistent with previous pledges by Biden administration officials to further restrict Chinese access to Western technology to advance its military and economic might.


Companies or other entities added to the Entity List are restricted from obtaining U.S. goods and technologies without U.S. government authorization. This sends a clear message to companies, governments, and other stakeholders globally that the entities on the list present a threat to national security.


Don Graves, the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, said, "The Commerce Department will continue to use the Entity List and our other regulatory and enforcement tools to protect U.S. national security and sovereignty." He stated that the Entity List is "a powerful tool for identifying and cutting off actors that want to use their access to global markets to do harm and threaten American national security."


Some officials believe that the balloon flights are part of China's strategy to increase its ability to gather information about American military bases, as well as those of other countries, in case there is a conflict or tensions rise.

Also in response to the incident, the Biden administration decided to call off Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's first official trip to China on Friday. 


During an interview on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Jake Sullivan, the White House's national security adviser, briefed him on the most recent object shot down over Canada. Schumer says that intelligence officials think that this object, as well as the unknown object shot down over Alaska on Friday and the craft, downed over South Carolina waters last week, were all balloons.



Schumer also said that he thought Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was looking into why it took so long for the U.S. military and intelligence agencies to find out about the balloons and that he supported Congress looking into the matter.


Cover photo: The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon falls to the ocean after being shot down off the coast of South Carolina, Feb. 4. Source: REUTERS/Randall Hill


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