BLUF

The suspected Chinese spy balloon (Chinese say it's a weather balloon) flew across Alaska and Canada before being shot down off the Carolina coast—this incursion resulted in the US Secretary of State cancelling his official visit to China.

Summary

Zeke Miller and colleagues writing in APNews make the following points:
  • The balloon’s downing was delayed until it was over water due to the risk to people on the ground.
  • The debris landed in shallow water over roughly 11 km and should be recovered quickly for analysis.
  • The balloon flew over nuclear missile silos.
  • The balloon was unlikely to have been able to capture any intelligence which could not have been collected by Chinese spy satellites.
  • Four Chinese spy balloons have entered U.S. airspace in recent years.

The Chinese might have ulterior motives for launching a balloon to fly over the USA. The Guardian thinks it possible the whole purpose of launching the ballon was to see how the USA would respond. See:

Now the Chinese ‘spy balloon’ is down, the question is: what was it for? | Surveillance | The Guardian

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