BEIJING (AP) — China’s Foreign Ministry said Friday that a balloon the U.S. suspects of conducting surveillance was a civilian “airship” used for research, mainly meteorological purposes.
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The statement indicated that the airship has limited steering capability and “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds.
It said China regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace.
The Pentagon decided not to shoot down the balloon, which was potentially flying over sensitive sites, because of concerns of injuring or killing people on the ground.
The news came as Antony Blinken was expected this weekend to make his first trip to Beijing as U.S, secretary of state. The visit has not been formally announced, and it was not immediately clear whether the balloon’s discovery would affect his travel plans.
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