A leaked US military report suggests that China may soon use a high-altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound. The Washington Post newspaper reported on this on Tuesday, citing a secret document from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The document features satellite imagery dated August 9, which shows two WZ-8 rocket-propelled reconnaissance drones at an air base in eastern China, about 350 miles inland from Shanghai.
The US assessment indicates that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had “almost certainly” established its first unmanned aerial vehicle unit at the base. This falls under the Eastern Theater Command, which is responsible for enforcing Chinese sovereignty claims over Taiwan. The US Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Chinese government could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Washington Post obtained the assessment of the program from a trove of images of classified files posted on the Discord messaging app. These were allegedly posted by a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, who was arrested last week. The FBI arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the US Air National Guard, over the leaks online of classified documents that embarrassed Washington with allies around the world.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent meeting with US House Representative Kevin McCarthy had upset Beijing. China claims that democratically ruled Taiwan is one of its provinces, and says Taiwan is the most important and sensitive issue in its relations with the United States. Taiwan’s government rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims.