U.S. sanctions six Chinese tech companies for supporting spy balloon programs


The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. 
Randall Hill | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department announced a new round of sanctions Friday targeting six Chinese aerospace companies that it identified as supporting the nation’s military’s reconnaissance balloon program.

The firms will join a growing list of companies based in China that the U.S. says pose serious threats to national security.

The sanctions announcement came just hours after an American military F-22 shot down the second “high altitude object” to enter U.S. airspace in the past week.

“The PRC’s use of high-altitude balloons violates our sovereignty and threatens U.S. national security,” said Alan Estevez, undersecretary of commerce for industry and security, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.

“Today’s action makes clear that entities that seek to harm U.S. national security and sovereignty will be cut off from accessing U.S. technologies,” Estevez said in a statement from the Commerce Department.

The craft that was shot down Friday was floating off the coast of Alaska. Last weekend, a high altitude Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina.

The White House was hesitant to characterize the aircraft involved in the Friday incident as a balloon, however.

“We’re calling this an object because that’s the best description we have right now,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, adding that U.S. officials did not yet know which nation or group was responsible for it.

The new sanctions reflect the administration’s renewed focus this week on China’s unmanned airship surveillance programs.

“Today’s action demonstrates our concerted efforts to identify and disrupt the PRC’s use of surveillance balloons, which have violated the airspace of the United States and more than forty countries,” said Matthew Axelrod, assistant secretary of commerce for export enforcement.

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