Last week, a suspected Chinese reconnaissance balloon device was seen flying over Montana, according to U.S authorities. Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder confirmed this information and stated that the United States is tracking the balloon closely, noting that it 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.
The news of the situation was delivered to Joe Biden on Wednesday by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other major defense authorities. Biden suggested that the balloon be shot out of the sky after people saw it from a commercial plane, however, the Pentagon opted against this course of action due to the risk of civilian deaths.
The balloon was seen above Billings, Montana on Wednesday after coming from across the Aleutian Islands and through Canada. A senior defense official said that its presence is still being monitored by US forces but did not disclose its current location for security reasons. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a meeting with top military leaders in order to discuss how to respond to this detection and concluded with delivering various response scenarios to President Biden on Wednesday.
The defense official assessed that although collection devices like this are nothing new, they still choose to take precautionary measures against collecting sensitive information. The official also noted that they are constantly tracking it in real time and have let China know through multiple channels both in Washington DC and Beijing.
Wednesday saw US airspace temporarily closed off as many onlookers spied the unidentified flying object, an immense balloon approximately three school buses long. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Miley, and other commanders reviewed the potential danger posed by this “Chinese stratospheric balloon” before presenting their choices to President Biden. After evaluating all factors, they ultimately decided against attempting to shoot down the balloon out of concern that any crash debris could lead to civilian harm or injury.
🚨#BREAKING: A Chinese surveillance balloon spotted in skies over northern U.S.⁰⁰📌#UnitedStates | #USA
⁰A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon has been hovering over the northern U.S. for the past few days, and the U.S. government has discussed shooting it out of the sky pic.twitter.com/aSyJqLXQmX
— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) February 2, 2023
UPDATE: The decision was finally made to take down the balloon after it crossed the entire country. What is the purpose of these spy balloons? What are they surveilling?
An official said that discovery is “part of a larger pattern” about what communist China is doing with its military as it becomes more aggressive in its foreign policy.
“These balloons are all part of a PRC fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations, which have also violated the sovereignty of other countries,” the official added.