The United States has claimed the ‘spy’ balloon that entered American airspace on 28 January was launched from Hainan Island near China’s south coast. Located on the northern edge of the South China Sea, this 35,000 sq km island, known for its beaches, is home to a major base of the PLA Navy
The United States has claimed that the Chinese “spy” balloon that lingered in American airspace before being shot down on 4 February was launched from Hainan Island near China’s south coast.
As per The Washington Post, US military and intelligence agencies had been tracking the balloon for nearly a week before it entered American airspace in late January.
The agencies initially believed that the balloon would reach the US territory of Guam, but it took an unexpected northern turn.
The balloon traversed to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, miles away from Guam, and then hovered over Canada, after which strong winds drifted the balloon south into the continental US, the officials told The Washington Post.
The officials are now entertaining the possibility that the balloon did not intentionally penetrate the US airspace and its course deviation may have been an accident.
The Chinese foreign ministry has rejected US’ surveillance claims, saying the balloon – roughly the size of three buses – was a “civilian airship” used mainly for “meteorological” research.
However, US intelligence officials are of the view that the Chinese balloon is a part of “an extensive surveillance” programme run by China’s military partly out of Hainan, CNN reported.
Let’s take a closer look inside Hainan Island which has come into the spotlight again through this Chinese balloon saga.
Dubbed the “Hawaii of China”, Hainan – meaning “south of the sea” – comprises many islands, including Hainan Island, as per South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The Hainan island is famous for its beaches, food and resorts.
As per CNN, this “tropical island paradise”, located on the northern edge of the South China Sea, hosts Boao Forum, an annual meeting of political and business leaders that is known as “Asia’s Davos”.
The 35,000 square km Hainan island, which has a population of 10 million, boasts of the world’s tallest Guanyin statue. Situated near Nanshan Temple in Sanya, the Buddhist Guanyin of Nanshan is embellished with gold, diamonds and other gems, reported SCMP.
China has also been promoting the island province of Hainan, especially its Sanya city, as an international tourist destination.
The island is being developed as the world’s largest free-trade port, with low taxes and more moderate regulations, as per SCMP.
The Wenchang Space Launch Site is located on the northeastern edge of Hainan island, as per CNN.
Source: First Post