After the completion of a two-week search operation, the last of the debris from the Chinese “spy” balloon is heading to an FBI laboratory in the southeastern US state of Virginia for analysis, according to the US military’s Northern Command.
The US and Canada have called off searches for three unidentified objects that were shot down last weekend, as investigators begin analysing the last of the debris collected from first Chinese “spy” balloon shot down at the start of the month.
The US military said late on Friday that, alongside federal agencies and Canadian partners, they had used a variety of capabilities, including airborne imagery and sensors, surface sensors and inspections, and subsurface scans, during their search operations.
US President Joe Biden said this week that “nothing right now suggests the objects were related to China’s spy balloon”.
He added that the US intelligence community believed they were most likely balloons linked to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting scientific research.
The third object was shot down over Canada’s mountainous and sparsely-populated territory of Yukon in the northwest.
Despite Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling the analysis of the debris from the object “very important” last week, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also announced on Friday its decision to end search efforts.
“Given the snowfall that has occurred, the decreasing probability the object will be found and the current belief the object is not tied to a scenario that justifies extraordinary search efforts, the RCMP is terminating the search,” it said in a statement.
Recovery efforts for the Chinese surveillance balloon shot down off the South Carolina coast two weeks ago concluded on Thursday, and “air and maritime safety perimeters have been lifted”, the US military’s Northern Command said in a statement.
It confirmed that the last of the balloon’s debris was heading to an FBI laboratory in the southeastern US state of Virginia for analysis.
“It’s a significant amount [of recovered material], including the payload structure as well as some of the electronics and the optics, and all that’s now at the FBI laboratory in Quantico,” said National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, who added that the US had already learned a lot about the balloon by observing it when it was in the air.
“We’re going to learn even more, we believe, by getting a look at the guts inside it and seeing how it worked and what it was capable of,” he told a White House news briefing.
Counteroffensive officials will use the Chinese balloon’s priority sensors, electronics and other elements collected to determine how Beijing might have gathered and transmitted surveillance information.
China has insisted that the balloon, which was the size of a small car and spent a week flying over the US, was used for meteorological and other scientific research and had been blown off course.
China’s top diplomat Wang Yi said on Saturday that the US’s handling of the balloon incident had been “unimaginable” and “hysterical” – an “absurd” act that violated international norms.
“There are so many balloons all over the world, so is the United States going to shoot all of them down?” Yi, director
of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said at the Munich Security Conference.
In his speech on Thursday, President Biden said: “Make no mistake, if any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down.”