The United States has detected an alleged Chinese spy hot air balloon, which is currently flying over its territory at high altitude and which "poses no military or physical risk" to anyone on the surface.
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder specified this Thursday in a statement that the US is currently following "closely" the movements of the balloon, which travels at a higher altitude than commercial air traffic.
"Once the balloon was detected, the US government immediately acted to protect itself against the collection of sensitive information" by China, said Ryder, who pointed out that it is not the first time that the authorities have detected such a device. type in recent years.
For its part, China has assured that it is checking the US information and asks "not to exaggerate" the matter. "Until the facts are clarified, speculation and commotion will not help to properly resolve this matter," Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a press conference on Friday.
According to Mao, "Beijing is verifying reports that a spy balloon has been flying over the United States," although he stressed that "China has no intention of violating the territory or airspace of any sovereign state." "China hopes to deal with this matter calmly and prudently with the United States," he added.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking defense official said in a telephone conversation with reporters that they believe the balloon belongs to China and that US President Joe Biden has been briefed on it.
In fact, the president asked about possible "options" to the US military officials, while the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, met on Wednesday with the leadership of the Pentagon, despite the fact that he was on a trip to the Philippines.
Both the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and the leader of the Northern Command, General Glen VanHerck, strongly recommended "not taking any kinetic action" because of the risk it could pose to people on the surface, due to the possible fall of debris from the balloon. In this sense, the Defense source explained that the device is "big enough" to cause damage if it is knocked to the ground.
He explained that on Wednesday they evaluated the option of shooting it down in a sparsely populated area of Montana (USA), but they chose not to risk it, and that they have received warnings from pilots who have sighted it despite the fact that it flies quite high.
The Defense source assured that this device "has limited additional value" with regard to the collection of intelligence material.
The announcement comes before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken begins a two-day visit to China on Sunday, the first trip by a US foreign minister to the Asian country since 2018.
The Defense official stated that after the detection of the balloon they have been in contact with Chinese officials through various channels, such as the respective Chinese and US embassies in Washington and Beijing.
"We have conveyed to them the seriousness with which we take this matter," the source remarked, adding that the US "will do whatever is necessary to protect its people and its territory."
Canada's Department of National Defense has announced that it is working with the US to protect the country from possible intelligence threats following the detection of the balloon, reports local channel CTVNews. According to the released statement, the movements of the globe are being actively tracked by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The statement does not mention China, nor does it indicate whether the surveillance balloon flew over Canadian airspace. It explains, however, that "Canadians are safe and that Canada is taking steps to ensure the safety of its airspace, including monitoring for a possible second incident."
"NORAD, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defense and other partners have been assessing the situation and working in close coordination," the statement said. "Canada's intelligence agencies are working with US partners and continue to take all necessary steps to safeguard Canada's confidential information from foreign intelligence threats," he added.
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