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China spy balloon part of military fleet to collect communications across five continents, US says

The balloon had multiple antennas built in a manner that was "likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications," the U.S. said.

February 9, 2023 9:44am

Updated: February 9, 2023 10:24am

The Chinese spy balloon shot down over the Atlantic Ocean after traversing much of the continental United States was part of a larger Chinese military fleet of surveillance balloons that flew across five continents, the State Department said Thursday.

The United States plans on exploring "taking action" against China's entities linked to its military, known as the People’s Liberation Army, that supported sending the balloon into U.S. airspace, the department said, according to The New York Times.

The balloon had multiple antennas built in a manner that was "likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications," the department also said. But officials are unsure what type of communications the aircraft was attempting to obtain.

The U.S. government said it is "confident" the company that produced the balloon was directly tied to the People’s Liberation Army, but it did not name the company. Videos on the company's website show balloons that apparently flew over the U.S. and other nations. More than 40 countries have had the Chinese-made balloons fly over, the State Department said. 

Beijing has maintained that the balloon was for weather research and was blown off course. China also threatened the U.S. for popping the balloon.

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