The Chinese “spy balloon” spotted by the Pentagon in American skies is currently still visible. This was reported by Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder in a statement to Nbc News. “The U.S. government,” he explained, “has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is still now over the U.S. mainland.
“We continue,” he added, “to follow it and monitor it closely. Once intercepted, the Pentagon explained, the U.S. government triggered the protection plan to prevent sensitive data collection. The ‘spy balloon’ was intercepted Wednesday over Billings, Montana, after crossing into Canada.
Chinese spy balloon flying over the US, military meeting convened
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin immediately convened a meeting with top military brass, including Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
No decision has been made at this time to shoot down the balloon. This, because of the risk that the remains could hit someone. The Pentagon has discussed this with U.S. President Joe Biden, to weigh all options.
The Pentagon is certain that the balloon belongs to China. And has notified the government in Beijing. U.S. administration representatives would not say whether the Chinese admitted it was theirs.
The overflight of the nuclear missile field
The spy balloon, suspected to be China’s and detected by the Pentagon over American skies, flew over Montana this week. Montana hosts one of three nuclear missile silo fields in the US.
According to reports in the Wall Street Jounal, two Air Force F-22 fighter jets lifted off from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada headed toward Montana, This, before the U.S. administration decided not to shoot down the spy balloon.
In Montana, the U.S. has an arsenal of 150 nuclear-armed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at the Malmstrom Air Force Base silo. A senior U.S. defense official said Washington is taking measures to protect sensitive sites.
Chinese spy balloon, Canada also on alert
Canadian National Defense is monitoring a potential second suspected Chinese spy balloon. “A high-altitude surveillance balloon has been detected and its movements are being actively monitored by North American Aerospace Defense Command Norad,” the national defense said in a note.
“Canadians are safe and we are taking measures to ensure the safety of the airspace, including monitoring for a potential second incident,” the briefing added.
Chinese chargé d’affaires summoned by the US
The US State Department has summoned the Chinese chargé d’affaires in Washington, Xu Xueyuan, “to deliver a very clear and tough message” following the Pentagon’s sighting of a Chinese ‘spy balloon’ over American skies.
The incident, which marks one of the most aggressive Chinese intelligence-gathering maneuvers in recent years, comes just days before the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing.
Washington, the Wall Street Journal also writes, declined to say whether it will cancel the U.S. diplomacy chief’s mission. Part of an effort to revive strained relations marked by the two countries geopolitical rivalry and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The United States, with Blinken’s visit to China, aims to address lingering disputes ranging from Taiwan to technology and intends to underscore the Biden administration’s interest in finding areas of potential cooperation.
Beijing response: ongoing verification
China has made it known that it is working to verify the facts surrounding U.S. claims that Beijing sent a spy balloon over its territory. Thus warning against any “exaggeration” of the case.
“Verification” of the facts is underway, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning stated. Also saying that “until the facts are clear, speculating and inflating the issue will not help resolve it properly.”