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US Pentagon: China spy balloon over US territory


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The incident, worthy of a spy movie, was announced just 24 hours before the head of American diplomacy, Anthony Blinken, traveled to China.

The US Pentagon announced on Thursday that it is monitoring a Chinese spy balloon flying high above US territory, passing sensitive military installations, assuring that it does not pose a “threat”.

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The incident, worthy of a spy movie, was announced just 24 hours before US Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken traveled to China, Washington’s arch-rival, to stabilize the increasingly strained bilateral relationship.

At the behest of President Joe Biden, the Pentagon considered shooting down the balloon. The decision was made not to give the green light to F-22 fighters because of the potential danger to people on the ground from the debris, a senior US Defense Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

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“We have no doubts about the fact that the balloon belongs to China,” he clarified.

“We are taking steps to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” he continued, insisting that the “added value” of gathering information from the “fairly large” balloon is rather “limited.”

“We thought it was quite large and that the debris would cause damage” if it fell over a residential area, he noted.

Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder clarified that the US-Canada Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is closely monitoring its trajectory.

“The balloon is currently flying at a height well above commercial aircraft. It does not pose any military or other threat to people on the ground,” he reassured in the press release he issued.


“Clearly the balloon is for intelligence gathering and its current course takes it over sensitive locations,” notably air bases and nuclear missile silos, the senior Pentagon official said, particularly in the state of Montana (northwest).

The balloon entered US airspace “days ago”, however the US intelligence services had put it under surveillance long before, according to the same source, who added that this is not the first time such a thing has been spotted.

But this time, the balloon stays in US airspace much longer.

When informed, the president asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to present him with options. Mr. Austin, who was in the Philippines yesterday Wednesday, held talks with officials.

Pursuits approached the aerial vehicle over Montana, the official said.

“Destabilizing Energy”

Washington raised the issue with the Chinese. “We have referred to the gravity of the incident,” the official said. “We told them clearly that we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our territory.”

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, denounced China’s “destabilizing action” that “contempts” the “national sovereignty of the United States” on Thursday. He demanded that Mr. Biden not remain “silent” and that members of Congress be informed.

US Secretary of State Blinken’s trip to China, the day after tomorrow Sunday and Monday, will be the first he will make to that country as head of American diplomacy since October 2018.

The visit comes as the two major powers stress that they seek to avoid the risk of tensions between them leading to a military confrontation.

The issue on which the two sides have an unbridgeable gap of opinion is Taiwan, which Beijing considers its province. The US is also concerned about China’s activity in Southeast Asia.

In the Philippines, Defense Secretary Austin signed deals to boost the US military presence in the face of rising Chinese power.


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