WASHINGTON – China denied Friday that a balloon flying over the United States is a spycraft but a “civilian airship” that blew off course.
The air ship is used for meteorological and other research, the Chinese government said in a statement in which it expressed regret for its “unintended entry” into U.S. airspace.
U.S. officials maintain that it is a Chinese spy balloon and have considered shooting it down.
Shooting it down poses too high a risk to people and property from debris, two U.S. officials said Friday. Other options are being explored, according to the officials who were not authorized to speak publicly.
The Pentagon said Thursday it had spotted what it called a spy balloon drifting over the northern United States. President Joe Biden was briefed on military options but officials decided against taking military action. F-22 fighter jets, the most advanced warplane in the Pentagon’s arsenal, were sent to observe the balloon.
It had been flying over Montana where the Pentagon has nuclear missile silos.
The incident comes at a time of rising tension between the superpowers. Although the trip had not officially been announced, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been expected to travel to China over the next few days.
- Where it was: The balloon was over Montana when the U.S. considered destroying it.
- What it is: The balloon is designed for surveillance, according to the Pentagon. But it likely is unable to collect more information than is available to spy satellites.
- Steps taken: While the Pentagon decided against shooting it down, the government took steps to prevent it from collecting sensitive information.
- Not first time: It’s not the first time Chinese spy balloons have flown over the United States. the official said.
Story Credit: usatoday.com