China boasts spy crafts could be used as weapons against enemies: report

While the U.S. is desperately trying to brush China’s spy balloon activities under the carpet, Chinese government sources laid out plans for using balloons as offensive weapons.

China boasts spy crafts could be used as weapons against enemies: report

A new report reveals that official sources from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army refute their own foreign ministry claims that its spy balloons are merely for meteorological research and details the offensive military usages of the near-space vehicles.

The startling findings coincide with remarks reportedly made last week by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, when he stated the U.S. wanted to "move beyond" controversy caused by the Chinese regime’s surveillance balloon that hovered above the Malmstrom Air Forces Base in Montana in February, where nuclear weapons are stored.

China’s surveillance craft—the size of three Greyhound buses—traversed the United States from Alaska starting in January 2023 until the massive air spy machine was shot down by an F-22 that fired a missile at it roughly six nautical miles off the coast of South Carolina in February. For nearly a week the Chinese regime’s surveillance balloon allegedly accumulated intelligence on the U.S.

The China Media Studies Project run by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published a detailed report, including material on the China Military Network, an official People’s Liberation Army outlet, which published an article before the spy balloon entered the U.S. titled "An Omnipotent Weapon—How Amazing are Near Space Vehicles?". 

According to the Chinese article authored by researcher Qiang Tianlin,"The emergence of near-space vehicles not only utilizes the connection between air and space, but also provides new ideas for air defense and anti-missile combat. If equipped with weapons platforms, near-space vehicles will enable more rapid attacks on a global scale greatly accelerating the pace of war."

The term "near-space" refers to the region where air devices are sent up in the sky above the flight paths of commercial airplanes.

Tianlin continued that "Attaining information superiority in future wars is becoming increasingly critical." He added "near space-based vehicles can play another important role: carrying out space-based countermeasures and strikes."

The significance of MEMRI’s documentation is it reveals that the Chinese spy balloons are designed for both espionage activity and military offensive strikes. The debate about the Chinese surveillance balloon has largely centered on the intelligence that Chinese regime’s balloon accumulated during its observation of U.S. states.

MEMRI’s report translated open source Chinese government documents and new reports covering how the Asian powerhouse’s "military uses surveillance balloons, airships, and airship-borne hypersonic vehicles."

Official Chinese media mocked the U.S. after America’s military shot down its balloon. According to MEMRI, the Chinese media said the U.S. spent over $1.4 million to pop a $50 dollar balloon. 

MEMRI honed in on a paper published by China’s People Liberation Army stating the balloons can "induce and mobilize the enemy’s air defense system, providing the conditions for the implementation of electronic reconnaissance, assessment of air defense systems’ early warning detection and operational response capabilities."

China’s regime insisted that the balloon was a civilian weather device. The Pentagon flatly rejected the Chinese explanation that it launched a weather balloon that flew off course, arguing the Chinese deliberately sent the spy balloon into U.S. airspace.

After the F-22 missile took down the balloon, the Chinese state-controlled media outlet published an article titled "The Airship was Shot Down And Has Fulfilled An Amazing Strategy Research Article Published Nine Years Ago." MEMRI noted the article was authored by Wang Xiangsui, a retired senior Chinese air force colonel. Wang wrote in his article that "airships that can stay in the air for long periods of time hold the best hope of becoming the core of a new generation of air defense systems."

Heino Klinck, who served as the U.S. Deputy Assistant for Defense for East Asia from 2019-2021, wrote an analysis in the MEMRI report on "Deflating China’s Aggression." He argued that with respect to the spy balloon that "These repeated episodes of Chinese provocations and dangerous behavior are not new. To put these incidents into historical perspective, they are a continuation of PRC [People’s Republic of China] counter-normative behavior that has been occurring for decades."

One telling recent example that Klinck cited was a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy J-11 "unsafely maneuvered within 10-feet of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance plane flying in international airspace over the South China Sea."

Klinck served as a military attaché in China from 2004-2010 and is a member of MEMRI’s Board of Advisors. The China expert Klinck urged that U.S. and its allies and partners cooperate "to thwart China’s aggression in all domains."

He said "The Biden administration has made some progress in this regard recently. However, before the U.S. Secretary of State unintentionally assumes the role of an ardent suitor willing to engage China on its terms, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure a ‘floor’ in the relationship is actually built on solid ground and not the illusion of possible Chinese cooperation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.