Chinese spy balloon over central US, will be in US airspace for ‘a few days,’ Pentagon says
Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Friday that the Chinese surveillance balloon hovering over the United States has moved to the central part of the country, but declined to get into specifics about its location.
Ryder said the North American Aerospace Defense Command is closely monitoring the balloon’s location and that it is moving eastward across the U.S.
“The balloon continues to move eastward and is currently over the center of the continental United States. Again, we currently assess that the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time,” Ryder said.
“It’ll probably be over the United States for a few days,” he added.
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The balloon is currently flying about 60,000 feet above sea level, higher than civilian aircraft fly.
The National Weather Service in Kansas City, Missouri, posted photos of a large balloon visible from their office in Pleasant Hill and the KC Metro that appeared to be headed southeast. “We have confirmed that it is not an NWS weather balloon,” NWS Kansas City said.
Ryder was asked repeatedly for more details, but he refused to get into specifics about the balloon’s location.
“The public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky and see where the balloon is,” he said.
The Biden administration has condemned the presence of a Chinese surveillance aircraft in U.S. airspace as a violation of U.S. sovereignty.
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Senior State Department officials have called the incident “unacceptable,” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indefinitely postponed a planned trip to China to meet President Xi Jinping in light of the circumstances.
Officials in the State and Defense Departments have said the government is maintaining contact with the People’s Republic of China and has “clearly communicated that this balloon is violating U.S. airspace and international law, and that this is unacceptable.”
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A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry claimed the balloon was a civilian weather aircraft that was knocked off course, but U.S. officials dispute this claim.
Senior State Department officials said Friday it was a “statement of fact” that China has violated U.S. sovereignty with this surveillance balloon.
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Ryder would not say if the military would shoot the balloon down once it travels over a body of water where it would not cause collateral damage.