Chinese 'Spy' Balloon Flying over U.S.Claims Pentagon; Civilian Airship, Says Beijing

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  • 08:29 AM, February 3, 2023
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Chinese 'Spy' Balloon Flying over U.S.Claims Pentagon; Civilian Airship, Says Beijing
'Spy' balloon flying at high-altitudes over U.S.

An object resembling a large baloon was spotted in the U.S. state of Montana which the Pentagon was quick to dub it as a "spy" baloon but Beijing later clarified that it a weather monitoring airship that was blown away by westerly winds.

The Pentagon said it continues to track and monitor the "spy" balloon, currently traveling at an altitude above commercial air traffic, closely.

The balloon “does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground,” the military said.

Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. One of them was most recently seen above the western state of Montana.

Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.

Chinese spy balloon?

“We are confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the [People’s Republic of China],” a senior defense official was quoted as saying by CNN. “Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration.”

The military decided against shooting it down in case debris falls.

While the balloon’s current flight path carries it over “a number of sensitive sites,” the official said it does not present a significant intelligence gathering risk. The balloon is assessed to have “limited additive value” from an intelligence collection perspective, the official added.

The U.S., the official said, is “also tracking what abilities it (the balloon) could have in gaining insights.”

Another official told BBC that the balloon is unlikely to give much more information than what China can already collect using satellites.

China’s reaction

A spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Friday that the balloon was an airship from China but rejected the spy claim, saying that the civilian airship, used mainly for meteorological research purposes, deviated from its planned course after being affected by westerlies and due to its limited self-steering capability.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing is currently attempting to verify the reports of the surveillance balloon, adding that "until the facts are clear, making conjectures and hyping up the issue will not help to properly resolve it."

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