The Chinese government has claimed a suspected spy balloon spotted over the US is merely a weather monitoring device, amid calls from 45th President Donald Trump and others to shoot it down.
The potential Chinese spy balloon was detected over Billings, Montana on Thursday, after it had initially flown over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and Canada. Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said the balloon was “traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”
Sen. Steve Daines of Montana requested a full security briefing from the Biden administration on the balloon, suspecting it to be an intelligence gathering mission targeting nuclear missile silos and other military assets.
“It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised U.S. national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the U.S. that this spy balloon was utilizing,” Daines said in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Photo purportedly shows Chinese spy balloon spotted over Montana https://t.co/Ggymjix75d
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) February 2, 2023
In a statement on Friday morning, the Chinese government claimed that the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” and that due to being affected by winds, and with “limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.”
The statement added that the Chinese government “regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning had previously said that they are a “responsible country and has always strictly abided by international laws, and China has no intention to violate the territory and airspace of any sovereign countries.”
The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. 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 pic.twitter.com/ovwR8Obx6k
— Zichen Wang (@ZichenWanghere) February 3, 2023
Despite the claim from the Chinese government that the balloon was a civilian asset, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called off a major trip to Beijing he was due to take this weekend on Friday, following the statement.
Various Republicans, including 45th President Donald Trump, have called for the government to “shoot down the balloon.”
Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana said that the balloon was a “clear provocation” against America, while Sen. Tom Cotton suggested that if the balloon was shot down, its internal technology could be an “intelligence bonanza.”
Shoot. It. Down.
The Chinese spy balloon is clear provocation. In Montana we do not bow. We shoot it down.
Take the shot.
— Ryan Zinke (@RyanZinke) February 3, 2023
President Biden should stop coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists. Bring the balloon down now and exploit its tech package, which could be an intelligence bonanza.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 3, 2023
However, the Biden administration has followed “guidance” not to shoot down the balloon, as it does not see it as an “immediate military threat.”
According to Secretary Austin, there is a further possibility that the debris could harm civilians or property if it was shot out of the sky.