The government of the United States is keeping a close eye on what is believed to be a Chinese surveillance balloon that has been flying above the northern states for the past few days. During a conference held on Thursday afternoon, the spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Brigadier General Pat Ryder, stated that the United States government has identified a high-altitude surveillance balloon flying over the continental United States.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government to include Norad, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” Ryder said.
The United States government has “confidence” that the surveillance balloon belongs to the People’s Republic of China, according to a senior defense official’s statement.
The defense official stated that the balloon was recently over Montana and that officials were considering bringing it down with military assets, but that they decided against doing so because of the risks associated with doing so. The official also stated that President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation and asked for military options.
“You did see reports yesterday of a ground stop at Billings Airport and the mobilization of a number of assets, including F-22. The context for that was that we put some things on station in the event that a decision was made to bring this down while it was over Montana.
So, we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area. But even with those protective measures taken, it was the judgment of our military commanders that we didn’t drive the risk down low enough. So, we didn’t take the shot,” the official said.
Fox News was told by a senior U.S. official that the government is still thinking about how to deal with the Chinese spy balloon. The official said that Biden and his national security team were given a number of options, one of which was that civilians could be hurt or killed if the military shot down the balloon.
A source says that the White House hasn’t ruled out shooting down the balloon if it’s safe to do so. According to the source, there is more than just a balloon, and if it were shot down, heavy equipment would fall to the ground, making a big mess.
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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called a meeting Wednesday with senior Department of Defense leaders to talk about the balloon. It was decided not to use military force because “the possible debris field could pose a risk to the safety and security of people on the ground,” an official said. Austin was at Camp Navarro in the Philippines at the time. The Philippines are about 2,000 miles from China.
The balloon was found at the same time that the U.S. and the Philippines agreed to send more troops to the islands because of rising tensions between China and Taiwan. The senior defense official said that the government has been keeping track of the balloon for “some time” and that it entered U.S. airspace “a couple of days ago.” Even though the official said that the balloon didn’t pose a military threat to the U.S., he or she also said that it probably wasn’t giving the People’s Republic of China any useful information.
“They’re trying to fly this balloon over sensitive sites, one of which was just mentioned to collect information,” the official said, adding that it’s not the first time that a balloon “of this nature” has been over the U.S.
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