This will not lighten relations between Washington and Beijing. According to US officials, the Pentagon has been monitoring a Chinese spy balloon flying at high altitude over US territory for several days.
"We are taking steps to protect against the collection of sensitive information," a senior US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, first said on Thursday, February 2. He insisted on "the limited added value in terms of information gathering" of the craft described as a balloon of a fairly large dimension. "We considered it large enough for the debris to cause damage" if it was shot in a populated area, he said.
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder then clarified that the United States and Canadian Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) was monitoring the movements of the balloon, which however does not present a "military or physical risk to people. on the ground ".
"Clearly, this balloon is intended for surveillance and its current trajectory takes it over sensitive sites" including nuclear silos, continued the first American official, referring to the state of Montana, in the western United States. United.
"A higher altitude than commercial air traffic"
According to Mr. Ryder, the US government continues to track the balloon which "currently travels at an altitude well above that of commercial air traffic and poses no military or physical threat to those on the ground."
The balloon entered U.S. airspace "several days ago" but U.S. intelligence had been monitoring it long before, the first source said, adding that it is not the first time the US military sees such an intrusion.
Ryder said the United States has contacted Chinese officials through multiple channels and conveyed the seriousness of the situation. The Pentagon's announcement comes days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to visit China. It's unclear whether this will affect his travel plans, which the State Department has yet to officially announce.