The United States Pentagon has announced that it is tracking a spy balloon that is believed to be Chinese, flying over the US. The balloon was first spotted "a couple of days ago" and the US military officials have been closely monitoring it since. The timing of the discovery of the balloon is significant as it comes just ahead of the visit of the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to China.
After President Joe Biden requested military options, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and top military officials considered shooting the balloon down, however, they decided not to do so as it could put many people on the ground in danger. The Pentagon has stated that the balloon does not pose any threat to civilian aviation and is not considered a particularly dangerous intelligence threat.
The defense official stated that the balloon has flown over the northwest of the US, where there are sensitive airbases and nuclear missiles stored in underground silos. Although the official did not provide a clear explanation, they said "there was no doubt" that the balloon was Chinese.
China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning warned against "hyping up" the issue and insisted that China would not violate international law. She stated that verification of the balloon's origin was underway. The Canadian Defense Department has also confirmed that it is working with the US to track the balloon and take necessary steps to ensure the security of its airspace.
The US defense official has confirmed that they have taken steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information. The seriousness of the issue with the balloon has been raised with Beijing officials and the US has made it clear that they will do what is necessary to protect their people and their land.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has tweeted about China's "brazen disregard for US sovereignty" and has called for President Biden to address the issue. The discovery of the spy balloon has added to the already heightened tensions between the US and China.