The United States has blacklisted six Chinese entities it said were linked to Beijing’s aerospace programmes as part of its retaliation over an alleged Chinese spy balloon that traversed US airspace.
The move is likely to further escalate the diplomatic row between the US and China that intensified due to the surveillance balloon, which the US eventually shot down last weekend.
The US said the balloon was equipped to detect and collect intelligence signals but Beijing has insisted it was a weather craft that had blown off course.
On Friday, the US Bureau of Industry and Security said the six Chinese entities were being targeted for “their support to China’s military modernisation efforts, specifically the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) aerospace programs including airships and balloons”.
“The PLA is utilizing High Altitude Balloons (HAB) for intelligence and reconnaissance activities,” it said.
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The US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said on Twitter his department “will not hesitate to continue to use” such restrictions and other regulatory and enforcement tools “to protect US national security and sovereignty”.
The six entities are Beijing Nanjiang Aerospace Technology Co, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation 48th Research Institute, Dongguan Lingkong Remote Sensing Technology Co, Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group Co, Guangzhou Tian-Hai-Xiang Aviation Technology Co, and Shanxi Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group Co.
The blacklisting will make it more difficult for the five companies and one research institute to obtain US technology exports.
There was no immediate comment from China on the blacklisting.
Also on Friday, a US military fighter jet shot down an unknown object flying off the remote northern coast of Alaska on orders from President Joe Biden.
The object was downed because it reportedly posed a threat to the safety of civilian flights rather than any knowledge it was engaged in surveillance.
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White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters the “high-altitude object” was flying at 12,000 metres (40,000 ft) over Alaska, posing a threat to civilian aviation.
“We don’t know who owns this object,” Kirby said during a news conference, adding that it was significantly smaller than the Chinese balloon that flew over the country last week.
“We’re calling this an object because that’s the best description we have right now,” he said. “We don’t have any information that would confirm a stated purpose for this object.”