Spy balloon spotted over US is a weather device which ‘blew off course,’ says China
China’s foreign ministry, in a statement on Friday, said it was used “mainly for meteorological” purposes and was in fact a weather device which had veered off course. Not only the United States but Canada too confirmed sighting the balloon
Beijing: An alleged Chinese spy balloon that was spotted over the United States on Friday is a “civilian airship” which had deviated from its planned route, China clarified. But, US defence officials said they believe the balloon, seen above sensitive areas in recent days, was in fact a “high-altitude surveillance” device.
China’s foreign ministry, in a statement later on Friday, however said it was used “mainly for meteorological” purposes and was in fact a weather device which had veered off course.
Not only the United States but Canada too confirmed sighting the balloon. The country’s national defence said in a statement that “a high-altitude surveillance balloon was identified and its movements were being carefully watched by NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command).”
Regretting the incident, the Chinese foreign ministry said that the weather device had blown off course and any entry into US airspace was “unintentional”.
The suspected spy balloon, which is believed to be the size of three buses, flew over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and through Canada before appearing over the city of Billings in Montana on Wednesday, US officials revealed.
Montana happens to be home to some of the United States’ nuclear missile silos. One of the three US nuclear missile silos at the Malmstrom Air Force Base, where the balloon was seen, is housed in Montana.
Treading with caution, the US decided not to shoot down the balloon because of the danger posed by falling debris, and the limited use of any intelligence the device could gather, the US defence official said. But, it did not rule out that the balloon may well be an espionage tool that China had tried to use. It also kept fighter jets ready in case the suspicious object had to be shot down.
The Chinese statement said the balloon had been blown off-course by unexpected winds. “Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” the statement read.
The statement called the incident an “unexpected situation” and said Beijing would continue to communicate with the US on it.
During Thursday’s briefing at the Pentagon, US defence officials refused to disclose the balloon’s current location and did not give information on where it was launched from. They added that the balloon was “appearing to hang out for a longer period of time” than others tracked by the US over the past many years.
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