A Chinese spy balloon has been detected flying over the United States. Defense officials observed the object with the US Air Force Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers but advised the country’s president Joe Biden against shooting it down in case doing so might pose a safety threat.
The high-altitude surveillance balloon had been flying over the US for two days, officials confirmed to Reuters on February 2, 2023. Most recently, the object has been tracked flying over the western state of Montana, where one of the country’s three nuclear missile silo fields is located.
However, the balloon was not shot down to prevent debris from falling and pose safety threats.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. […] 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,” US Department of Defense chief spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said.
According to officials, the Chinese spy balloon has ‘limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective’. The US addressed questions regarding the incident for China, and the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the country is ‘verifying’ the situation.
The incident follows recent news regarding the upcoming US Secretary of State Antony Blicken’s visit to Beijing with a view to meeting China’s president President Xi Jinping. The Secretary’s visit is scheduled to take place between February 5 and 6, 2023.