Chinese spy balloon caught over the US: Will the government shoot it down?
Defense officials confirmed that the balloon was spotted above northern parts of the US. The Pentagon has presented response options to President Biden.
The United States military has confirmed that a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon has been located above parts of the country in recent days. Officials have recorded the ‘spy balloon’ in regions across the northern US and will continue to monitor its movement.
NBC News report that both military and defense bodies in the US have discussed the possibility of shooting it out of the sky. For now, however, they will continue to monitors its activity.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed on Thursday.
“We continue to track and monitor it closely,” Ryder continued, “Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
High altitude balloon seen over Montana
US officials are thought to have tracked it throughout its time over US airspace and have released details of its movements. The device was seen flying over the Aleutian Islands and through Canada, eventually hovering above Billings, Montana on Wednesday.
In response to the supposed threat, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a meeting of military and defense leaders on Wednesday to discuss a government response.
The threat posed to people on the ground prevented them from moving to remove the balloon from the sky immediately, but it is thought that that possibility does remain open. President Biden was presented with options from Pentagon leaders.
“Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective over and above what the PRC can do through other means,” a senior defense official told NBC News.
“Nevertheless we are taking all necessary steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.”
The Pentagon has not specified the size of the high altitude balloon, but it is thought to be large enough for commercial pilots to see. As a precaution, a temporary ground stop was placed on all air traffic from the Billings, Montana, Logan International Airport.
In response to the initial sighting the US sent F-22 fighter jets to the vecinity, awaiting instructions from the White House. For now officials are weary of heightening tensions with China but this incident could make for some terse conversations between Washington and Beijing in the coming weeks and months.