(NEW YORK) — A massive spy balloon believed to be from China was seen above Montana and is being tracked as it flies across the continental United States.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement on Thursday. “NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely.”
China’s foreign ministry has claimed it is a civilian balloon used for meteorological purposes, but U.S. politicians, many on the right, are already demanding President Joe Biden shoot it down.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Feb 03, 10:26 AM EST
Pentagon to hold press briefing at noon
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder will conduct an on-camera press briefing at noon on Friday as the Biden administration faces questions about what U.S. officials call a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the U.S.
Ryder said in a statement Thursday that the government was tracking the balloon and that it didn’t present a military threat.
“Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” Ryder said.
Feb 03, 9:36 AM EST
Secretary of state delays visit
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is postponing his visit to China after the balloon was tracked soaring across the country.
Blinken will delay his upcoming trip to Beijing, originally scheduled for next week. The official noted that Blinken did not want to blow the situation out of proportion by canceling his visit, but also does not want the balloon to dominate his meetings with Chinese officials.
Feb 03, 9:29 AM EST
China claims balloon is civilian in nature
The Chinese Foreign Ministry is saying the balloon is civilian in nature and used for scientific research, “mainly meteorological.”
“The airship is from China,” the foreign ministry said. “Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.”
It continued, “The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure.”
“Force majeure” refers to something that is done beyond the control of the government.
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