A Chinese surveillance balloon has been spotted hovering above the United States for two days just days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s scheduled trip to Beijing, American authorities have said.
The fighter jets were activated but President Joe Biden was advised by military advisors not to shoot the balloon because the debris may endanger safety, according to a Reuters article. Joe Biden followed this recommendation.
The balloon was taken by the United States after it crossed American airspace and was discovered by a military aircraft, according to an official who spoke to Reuters under the condition of anonymity.
Without providing any other information the Canadian Defense Ministry reported the discovery of a “high-altitude surveillance” balloon that was in continual touch with the US.
The information first surfaced when CIA Director William Burns discussed China as the greatest geopolitical issue confronting the United States during a speech at a Georgetown University event in Washington.
The US government has identified an altitude surveillance balloon that is now circling the American continent, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said. He said that this balloon was neither a military or physical threat to persons on the ground and was currently floating far above commercial aviation traffic.
Beijing was verifying the situation, according to Mao Ning, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. She said, “I would want to emphasize that conjecture and discourse will not help in a meaningful solution to this matter until the facts are clear.
US officials said they have taken up the matter with their Chinese counterparts through diplomatic channels and they have taken it seriously. A US official said it was estimated that the balloon’s additional capacity for intelligence gathering was limited.
Before entering the country, the spy balloon was seen near Canada and the Aleutian Islands, according to another American source quoted in Reuters report. One of the US officials said spy balloons have flown over the US several times in recent years but the balloon has been flying longer than previous events.