US intelligence has tracked a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been flying over the northern region of the US this week.
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A high-altitude surveillance balloon has been identified by Pentagon officials as belonging to China.
In response to safety concerns, the US military chiefs have now decided to blow the suspicious spycraft out of the sky.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation, according to Pentagon officials.
According to the intelligence reports, the balloon was spotted over the western state of Montana on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Llyod Austin and chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, along with other US military officials, met to assess the threat of the situation. Mr. Austin was on his way to the Philippines, the defense officials added.
The United States has fighter jets, even the F-22 fighter jets, that would tackle the flying object. The military commanders will be ready to shoot down the balloon if the White House orders them to do so. The Pentagon advised against it, saying that even though the region of Montana is sparsely populated, the falling debris would put people at potential risk.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior defense official said there was no “significantly enhanced threat” of US intelligence being compromised because our officials “know the exact location of the balloon and where it’s passing over.”
There was no potential threat to civil aviation as the balloon was “flying at a significantly higher altitude” than that of commercial airlines, he said.
The matter has been raised by the senior defense official with the Chinese officials in both the embassies in Washington, DC, and Beijing.
The officials say the object flew over the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and through Canada before being spotted in Billings and the city of Montana.
Pentagon denies disclosing details
On Thursday, during a briefing at the Pentagon, the officials refused to disclose any more details of the object, including the size, and aircraft’s current location.
Some officials even claimed the reports of “pilots seeing the object in the sky, although it’s pretty high”
“It could be said it’s quite sizable.”
The officials added of such balloons being spotted in the skies of the United States previously.
Currently, this balloon “is appearing more persistently and flying over for a long time” than any previous spy aircraft.
The location of the balloon is quite doubtful, and it is unclear why it is appearing in that specific region of the US. The city of Billings is 250 miles (400km) southwest of the US Air Base in Malmstrom, one of three US air bases possessing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Pentagon agreed that “the current flight path shows its movement over numerous sensitive regions.” But, yet not confirmed if the air base was a surveillance target.
On Wednesday, many social media users in Montana were stunned by the suspicious spy object flying over the city.
Photos came on social media of a mysterious pale round object hovering distinctively from the moon in the sky.
Alerted by the flying object, officials of the Billings Logan Airport closed 50 square miles of their airspace, which led to a two-hour ground stop at the airport.
Antony Blinken to visit China
The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinkin is planning a visit to China, according to reports.
The US is expanding its military presence in Asia, aiming to counter Beijing and reassure its Indo-Pacific allies. a move that will solidify its foot in Asia and provide assistance to its allies against any threat from North Korea and China.
Talks will be held in Beijing on a wide range of issues including Covid-19, Taiwan and National security, next week.
Blinkin will meet Xi Jinping, president of China, on Thursday, according to the Financial Times.