A Chinese surveillance balloon was spotted over Montana on Wednesday, according to multiple outlets reporting on the issue.
Brigadier General Pat Ryder, a spokesperson of the Pentagon, was quoted by BBC saying that he was “confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon” belongs to China. The report notes that the officials are determining the possible course of action and assessing the threats it possesses and also whether it should be blown away.
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As the surveillance balloon is “significantly” above the altitude used by commercial lines, it does not pose a threat to civilian aviation.
Watch a video of the balloon in Montana that was widely shared:
Suspected Chinese spy balloon found over northern U.S.
“The United States government … is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now," said a Pentagon spokesperson. pic.twitter.com/X1hmYSBgD1
— John Martin (@MartinInMontana) February 2, 2023
Multiple outlets have noted that the balloon has sprung up ahead of State Secretary Anthony Blinken’s visit to China.
Ryder added that the POTUS has already been briefed on the situation. Other US military leaders, such as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, the chairman of US Join Chiefs of Staff, met on Wednesday and discussed the matter and assessed its threat. They have advised to not take any ‘kinetic action’ as the debris falling on the ground could harm civilians.
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Ryder added that there was no “significantly enhanced threat” to the US as the officials “know exactly where this balloon is and exactly where it’s passing over”. He said that the matter has been raised with the Chinese embassy in Washington DC and its counterpart in Beijing.
Ryder added: “F-22 Raptors were sent from Nellis Air Force Base in southern Nevada, but they are not thought to have engaged with the balloon – their activities prompted a ground stop at the airport in Billings, however, with air traffic controllers citing a ‘special military mission.” According to the Mail, the balloon is the size of ‘three buses’.