Current events have come to Bend’s roundabouts. White balloons have been showing up in parts of the city Friday including at the famous Centennial Logger statue.
On Friday morning, the logger was holding a white balloon. Beneath him was a sign that said “Surveylance Balloon” with arrows pointing up.
Clearly, it’s in relation to the Chinese balloon spotted over the U.S. last week and was later shot down by the military. The balloon was recovered in the Atlantic Ocean. The Biden administration said this week that the balloon was equipped to detect and collect intelligence signals as part of a huge, military-linked aerial surveillance program that targeted more than 40 countries.
More white balloons were also reported at some other roundabouts in the city Friday.
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The ballon — the Chinese one, not the Centennial Logger one — has become a political football. There were demands last week to shoot it down over U.S. airspace when it was already suspected of being a spy balloon. But the administration held off, citing concerns it could come down on the population.
A fleet of balloons operates under the direction of the People’s Liberation Army and is used specifically for spying, outfitted with high-tech equipment designed to gather sensitive information from targets across the globe, the U.S. said. Similar balloons have sailed over five continents, according to the administration.
A statement from a senior State Department official offered the most detail to date linking China’s military to the balloon that was shot down by the U.S. last weekend over the Atlantic Ocean. The public details outlining the program’s scope and capabilities were meant to refute China’s persistent denials that the balloon was used for spying, including a claim Thursday that U.S. accusations about the balloon amount to “information warfare.”
President Joe Biden defended the U.S. action.
And, asked in an interview with Spanish language Telemundo Noticias whether the balloon episode represented a major security breach, he said no.
“Look, the total amount of intelligence gathering that’s going on by every country around the world is overwhelming,” he said. “Anyway, it’s not a major breach. I mean, look … it’s a violation of international law. It’s our airspace. And once it comes into our space, we can do what we want with it.”
On Capitol Hill, the House voted unanimously to condemn China for a “brazen violation” of U.S. sovereignty and efforts to “deceive the international community through false claims about its intelligence collection campaigns.” Republicans have criticized Biden for not acting sooner to down the balloon, but both parties’ lawmakers came together on the vote, 419-0.
In Beijing, before the U.S. offered its new information, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning repeated her nation’s insistence that the large unmanned balloon was a civilian meteorological airship that had blown off course and that the U.S. had “overreacted” by shooting it down.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.