The U.S. military is tracking a suspected Chinese spy balloon that has been flying over the northwestern United States in recent days.
A senior defense official said us “Very confident” it was a Chinese high-altitude balloon that was flying over sensitive sites to gather information.
“It is clear that the purpose of this balloon is for surveillance,” the official said.
Beijing did not immediately deny that it belonged to them.
Mao Ning, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said: “We are learning about the verification of this matter.
“We hope that both parties will handle this matter calmly and carefully.
“What I want to emphasize is that before the facts are clarified, speculation and speculation will not help to properly solve the problem.”
Balloon spotted over Billings, Montana, Wednesday – near one of three US nuclear missile silos at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
It also flew over the Aleutian Islands off the coast Alaskaand pass Canada.
The balloon is still in U.S. airspace, but officials declined to say where it is now.
They acknowledged that it operates above civilian air traffic and below “outer space”, but declined to say how high it flew.
Military and defense leaders considered shooting the balloon out of the sky but decided against it due to the potential safety risk of falling debris.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin convened a meeting of senior military and defense leaders to review the threat profile and possible responses to the balloon presented to the U.S. president joe biden Wednesday.
the United States is already involved Chinese Officers “urgent” and communicated the seriousness of the situation.
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Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said: “The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon flying over the continental United States.
“The U.S. government, including NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), continues to closely track and monitor it.
“Balloons are currently flying at altitudes well above commercial air traffic and pose no military or physical threat to personnel on the ground.
“In the past few years, instances of this ballooning activity have been observed.
“Once the balloon was discovered, the U.S. government took immediate action to prevent the collection of sensitive information.”
“Potential Second Incident”
Canadians are safe and officials are taking steps to secure its airspace, including monitoring for a “possible second incident,” the Canadian Defense Department said.
“NORAD, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of Defense and other partners have been assessing the situation and working closely together,” the statement said.
“Canadian intelligence agencies are working with U.S. partners and continue to take all necessary steps to protect Canada’s sensitive information from foreign intelligence threats.
“We are in frequent contact with our U.S. allies as the situation develops.”
China and the United States have recently experienced tension, clashing over Taiwan and China’s human rights records and their military activities in the South China Sea.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to visit China in the coming days.
It was not immediately clear whether this would affect his travel plans, and the State Department has yet to make an official announcement.