© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts toward the ocean after it was shot down from the shore in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. REUTERS/Randall Hill
By Alexandra Alper and Karen Freifeld
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration on Friday added six Chinese entities linked to Beijing’s alleged surveillance balloon program to an export blacklist.
The new restrictions come after the White House said it would consider broader efforts to “expose and address” China’s larger surveillance activities that threaten US national security and allies.
The Ministry of Commerce said five companies and one research institute are supporting “China’s military modernization efforts, especially the aerospace programs of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including airships and balloons.”
The spectacle of a Chinese hot air balloon floating over the United States last week sparked political outrage in Washington and brought into focus the challenge China has posed to the United States and its allies.
That prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to Beijing that both countries had hoped would mend strained relations.
Being added to the entity list makes it more difficult for targeted companies to obtain US technology exports. Both US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump used the list to punish Chinese companies deemed a threat to national security and prevent Beijing from advancing militarily.
“Today’s action demonstrates our concerted efforts to identify and end the PRC’s use of surveillance balloons, which have violated the airspace of the United States and more than forty countries,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Matthew Axelrod.
The Commerce Department said the six entities are supporting the modernization of China’s PLA and its aviation programs, including airships and balloons.
“NOA uses high-altitude balloons for intelligence and reconnaissance activities,” said a list published in the Federal Register, the official US daily newspaper.
LIST OF SUBJECTS
The two entities are Beijing Nanjiang Aerospace Technology and China Electronics Technology Group Corporation 48th Research Institute.
The Biden administration also added Dongguan Lingkong Remote Sensing Technology, Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group, Guangzhou Tian-Hai-Xiang Aviation Technology and Shanxi Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group.
An employee at Guangzhou Tian-Hai-Xiang Aviation said she was not aware of the sanctions and declined to comment further. The company has close ties to the Chinese military and manufactures aerospace products for both civilian and military use, according to its website.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington and the 48th Research Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The nation’s 48th Research Institute produces sensors for civilian and military use, according to its website.
Beijing Nanjiang, Dongguan Lingkong, Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group and Shanxi Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group were not available.
Beijing Nanjiang is a unit of the Shanghai-listed Deluxe (NYSE: ) developer family, according to an exchange filing. The company has partnered with Beihang University to develop China’s first military-civilian airship called “Dream,” according to the official People’s Daily.
In Dongguan, Lingkong was indirectly invested by Beihang University Institute in Dongguan, which is developing unmanned airships, according to public registration data. Both Eagles Men Aviation and Shanxi Eagles Men Aviation were invested by a private equity fund that promotes military-civilian integration.
Washington said it was convinced that the manufacturer of the Chinese balloon, which was shot down by the US military last weekend near the US East Coast, was in “direct connection” with the PLA.
The US Air Force shot down a balloon near South Carolina on Saturday, a week after it entered US airspace. China’s foreign ministry said it was a weather balloon that had gone off course and accused the United States of overreacting.