Chinese spy balloon: The Pentagon alleged that a Chinese "spy balloon" around the size of "three buses" was spotted over the United States' airspace on Thursday, February 3. This comes days ahead of US State Secretary Antony Blinken's scheduled visit to Beijing.
Speaking to the media, Pentagon Spokesman Brigadier Gen Pat Ryder said the US has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is currently flying over the continental region of the country.
"North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon was spotted over Montana on and is said to be the size of three buses," he added. According to Ryder, the US government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information after the ballon was detected.
President Biden briefed about the incident
He said the balloon was travelling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Meanwhile, a senior defence official said that President Joe Biden has been briefed about the incident and that the Pentagon is exploring various options.
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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley and US Northern Command Gen Glen VanHerck have recommended not to "take kinetic action” because of the potential risk to the safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field, officials said.
"We assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective. But we are taking steps nevertheless to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information," said the defence official.
(With inputs from AP)