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HomeWorldPentagon says suspected Chinese spy balloon has been sighted over western US

Pentagon says suspected Chinese spy balloon has been sighted over western US

Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Gen. Patrick Ryder speaks during a briefing Jan. 17. On Thursday, he said that a suspected Chinese spy balloon “is currently flying at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and poses no military or physical threat to people on the ground. ”

Andrew Harnik/AP


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Andrew Harnik/AP

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Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Gen. Patrick Ryder speaks during a briefing Jan. 17. On Thursday, he said that a suspected Chinese spy balloon “is currently flying at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and poses no military or physical threat to people on the ground. “

Andrew Harnik/AP

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been sighted over U.S. airspace for a few days, but the Pentagon has decided not to shoot it down due to the risk of harm to people on the ground, officials said Thursday.

A senior defense official told Pentagon reporters that the US was “very confident” it was a Chinese high-altitude balloon and had flown over sensitive locations to gather intelligence. One of the places the balloon was sighted was in Montana, where Malmstrom Air Force Base is one of the country’s three nuclear missile silo fields. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

Brig. Pentagon press secretary General Patrick Ryder issued a brief statement on the matter, saying the government is continuing to track the balloon. He said it “currently operates at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and poses no military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

He said similar balloon activity had been observed in recent years. He added that the US has taken steps to ensure it is not collecting sensitive information.

The defense official said the US had “engaged” Chinese officials through multiple channels, communicating the seriousness of the matter.

The Pentagon announcement comes days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China. It’s not clear if this will affect his travel plans, which the State Department hasn’t officially announced.

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In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, a missile maintenance squadron technician works on an ICBM during a Minuteman simulated electronic launch test September 22, 2020 at a launch facility near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont . The US says it is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been sighted over US airspace.

Tristan Day/US Air Force via AP


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Tristan Day/US Air Force via AP

ap23033812700463 1934b6e9e3c7ce230e583504f9c248c4db21fd09 s1200

In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, a missile maintenance squadron technician works on an ICBM during a Minuteman simulated electronic launch test September 22, 2020 at a launch facility near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont . The US says it is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been sighted over US airspace.

Tristan Day/US Air Force via AP

The US is expanding its military presence in Asia in a series of moves aimed at countering Beijing and reassuring Indo-Pacific allies that America will stand by them against threats from China and North Korea.

The senior defense official said the US had fighter jets, including F-22s, ready to shoot down the balloon if ordered to do so by the White House. The Pentagon eventually advised against it, noting that even if the balloon were over a sparsely populated area of ​​Montana, its size would create a debris field large enough to put people in danger.

The official declined to specify the balloon’s size but said it was large enough for commercial pilots to see despite its great height.

The official said what worried them about that launch was the altitude at which the balloon flew and the time it lingered over one location, without giving details.


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