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»Spying is common practice«

A Chinese balloon flies over the United States - and triggers a diplomatic crisis. In an interview, physicist Götz Neuneck explains why he thinks the excitement is exaggerated.

A Chinese balloon that flew over the United States for several days stirs tempers. The Pentagon sees the balloon as a spy tool. China, on the other hand, claims it is a “civilian airship”. What initially seemed strangely antiquated developed into a real diplomatic crisis, also due to the large media response. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his planned trip to China and US President Joe Biden gave permission for the balloon to be launched.

The debris is currently being recovered and will be evaluated. Since then, experts around the world have been puzzling over what the intentions of the Chinese leadership might have been and why they are resorting to espionage techniques like those used in the Cold War. Götz Neuneck from the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Hamburg is surprised at the extent of the public outcry. “A state that finds itself in an actual or perceived conflict situation would of course like to know what the opponent is doing,” he says. “It’s illegal, but it’s common practice.” In an interview, he explains what technology the balloon might have had on board and why it was definitely not a simple weather balloon.


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