The US military is tracking what it says is a Chinese spy balloon over Montana, Pentagon officials said in a press conference Thursday night, and have considered shooting it down.
President Joe Biden has decided not to bring down the balloon, which officials said had been tracked by F-22 fighter planes, on the recommendation of the top defense officials concerned the apparently huge balloon’s wreckage could pose a public risk. So the balloon continues to float above Montana, suspected of spying on America. Montana is home to a number of sensitive military installations, officials said at Thursday’s presser.
“We are confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the [People’s Republic of China],” a senior defense official said in a background briefing to gathered reporters. “Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration.”
The official said that the balloon entered Montana from Canada after passing over Alaska and did not specify how long the unmanned craft had been tracked before Thursday’s announcement. It could be seen across Montana Thursday, according to wire services and social media.
“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,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in an on the record statement. “Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican whose caucus has expressed concern about possible space-based lasers controlled by the Rothschild banking family, decried the balloon in a tweet as a violation of US sovereignty and called for defense officials to brief the co-called “Gang of Eight,” the top leaders of each party in Congress who are cleared to receive sensitive intelligence.
The unusual announcement — such Chinese operations have been long rumored in US national security circles but never formally confirmed — comes just days before US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to meet with top Chinese officials in Beijing.
Blinken is expected to discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine as well as recent comments by a top US Air Force general that the US military should prepare for war with China in 2025.
A NATO official in Brussels said that China’s intelligence collection abilities — which include satellites — are fairly well known, which might have been a factor in the decision to not shoot down the balloon.
“The US might already know its capabilities,” said the official, who asked to not be named. “If they’re confident of this, it would be a factor in deciding not to bring it down to look at it.”
Canada, which apparently refused to stop the balloon from crossing into the US, issued a short statement that Canadians were “safe.”
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