- The US military has spotted a Chinese spy balloon over northern US.
- The Pentagon said the balloon was spotted on Wednesday over the state of Montana in the northwest of the country.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a trip to Beijing planned for the weekend as a result of the incident.
The visit should take place at another time as soon as circumstances allow, said a senior official at the US State Department in Washington. Blinken was originally supposed to leave on Friday.
The US military has accused Beijing of planting a large spy balloon over the northern United States. The US Department of Defense made the discovery public on Thursday evening (local time).
China regrets stray “civilian” balloon over US
China has denied claims by the US military that it sent a spy balloon into US airspace. It is rather a “civilian” airship for research purposes, primarily of a meteorological nature, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday in Beijing. Due to its limited ability to steer itself due to strong westerly winds, it “deviated far from its planned course”.
The spokesman added, “China regrets unexpected entry into US airspace due to force majeure.” China will continue to communicate with the US and deal appropriately with this “unexpected situation”.
“We know it’s a surveillance balloon,” Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said. He could not give any details. But the Pentagon still stands by its assessment of the incident, Ryder emphasized. The balloon is also very manoeuvrable. It is assumed that it will fly over US territory for several more days.
The trajectory of the balloon will be closely monitored, the Pentagon said. Shooting him down was considered, but decided against due to the danger of falling debris.
«No military threat to people»
Following the balloon’s discovery, the government took immediate action to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information, Ryder said.
Similar incidents have happened in the past. The difference this time is that the balloon stays longer than usual over the United States. The balloon poses no military threat or danger to people on the ground, Ryder said.
According to the Pentagon, the balloon is harmless to aircraft due to its high altitude. The US is in contact with China about the incident.
Canada also reports sightings
The Canadian Ministry of Defense said it had also discovered a “high-altitude surveillance balloon”. In addition, one observes a “potential second incident”.
The Canadian secret services are in exchange with the “American partners”. Steps are being taken to ensure airspace safety, Canadian authorities said.