THE Chinese government has urged the United States to remain “cool-headed,” claiming the alleged spy balloon is a “civilian airship used for weather research that blew off course.”
Eyewitness reports of a high-altitude object hovering over Montana mounted this week as Pentagon officials admitted they had been tracking the enormous craft for days.
3The Chinese government has claimed the alleged spy balloon is a ‘civilian airship used for weather research that blew off course’Credit: AP:Associated Press3China has urged the United States to remain ‘cool-headed’ about the matterCredit: AP3President Joe Biden is now deciding against ‘military options’ to take down the balloon citing the risk to civiliansCredit: APOn Friday, the Chinese government claimed the balloon spotted over the United States continent is a “civilian airship used for meteorological research.
Beijing said the airship had limited steering capabilities and “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds.
“The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure,” the country said in a statement.
The US suspects the balloon – the size of three bus lengths – of spying.
“Clearly, the intent of this balloon is for surveillance,” said a US official.
The official said the balloon had flown over areas containing sensitive airbases and nuclear missiles in underground silos.
Montana is home to the Malmstrom Air Force Base, which houses one of the three nuclear missile fields in the US.
It is home to 150 intercontinental ballistic missile silos.
The Pentagon has decided not to shoot down the balloon, citing the risk to civilians on the ground.
At a press briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that authorities were still learning about the matter.
“We have no intention to violate other countries’ sovereignty and airspace,” Ning said.
“We are gathering and verifying the facts. We hope the relevant parties will handle the matter in a cool-headed way,” she added.
The advantages of balloons over satellites include the ability to scan vast swathes of territory from closer in and to be able to spend more time over an area.
And unlike satellites, which require space launchers that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, balloons can be launched very cheaply.
The balloons are not directly steered but can be roughly guided to a target area by changing altitudes to catch different wind currents.
The US military has tracked other spy balloons in recent years, according to a senior US defense official.
The alleged spying comes just days before a planned trip to Beijing by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Blinken is due to arrive in China on Friday, becoming the highest-ranking member US official to visit since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
And his visit comes amid a backdrop of strained relationships between the US and China.
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk