Chinese officials assert that the balloon is a civilian “airship,” but Pentagon officials allege it is a surveillance instrument.
According to the Pentagon, a Chinese surveillance balloon has “shifted course” and will continue to fly over American airspace for the foreseeable future.
The aircraft has the capacity to manoeuvre and is currently travelling east, according to Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, who briefed reporters after it was sighted on Wednesday at high altitude over the western US near important military locations.
I can tell you that the balloon is still moving eastward and is currently over the centre of the continental United States, he added, adding that we won’t get into information about the precise location. “At this moment, we believe that the balloon does not pose a military or physical threat to those on the ground, but we will continue to observe and consider our options,” the statement reads.
The US military scrambled jets after learning about the balloon on Wednesday, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s high-profile trip to China was postponed as a result.
The aircraft was a “civilian airship,” according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry, which claimed that wind had caused it to deviate from its intended path.
The Chinese foreign ministry used the legal word “force majeure,” which is used to describe circumstances that are out of one’s control, to express remorse for the airship’s unintentional incursion into US airspace.
The airship was described as having “limited steering capabilities” and being utilised for “research, primarily meteorological purposes.”
The Pentagon had “very high confidence” the object was a high-altitude balloon performing surveillance close to “important military locations,” a senior US defence official told reporters during a briefing on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Nearly 200 miles from a field of nuclear missile silos at Malmstrom Air Force Base, inhabitants of Billings, Montana, saw the balloon.
According to the person, President Joe Biden was given the choice to fire down the aircraft, but he chose not to do so due to the risk that falling debris would pose to on-the-ground citizens.