The U.S. military is currently monitoring a suspected Chinese spy balloon that has been hovering for several days over the northern United States.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement on Thursday that the “high-altitude surveillance balloon” poses no immediate threat to the United States and will be monitored for the time-being.
“The United States Government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” said Ryder, adding:
The U.S. government, including NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.
According to NBC News, the balloon was initially spotted over Billings, Montana, after it had flown over the Aleutian Islands and through Canada. The exact whereabouts of the balloon remains unknown to the public at this time.
“Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective over and above what the PRC can do through other means,” “Nevertheless we are taking all necessary steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.”
“We are tracking it in minute detail in real time and we will constantly update our assessment,” the official added. “We are in constant surveillance of this thing through a bunch of different means.”
Per the report:
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin convened a meeting of senior military and defense leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, NORTHCOM/NORAD Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck, and other combatant commanders.
The leaders reviewed the threat profile of the Chinese stratospheric balloon and possible response options, and ultimately decided not to recommend taking it out kinetically, because of the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field. Pentagon leaders presented the options to President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
President Biden was reportedly briefed on the matter and advised not to order the balloon be shot down.
“Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration,” said a senior administration official. “We acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
U.S. officials strongly believe the balloon belongs to China, and while this type of activity has occurred previously, officials noted that the balloon floated above the United States longer than usual.