A Chinese spy balloon is drifting over Montana while the Biden administration says it has no plans to shoot down the aircraft.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. 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,” Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said Thursday, according to Reuters.
President Joe Biden agreed with advice from military leaders not to shoot down the balloon. The leaders had cautioned that the debris could be a safety threat.
“We wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area,” Reuters quoted an official it did not name as saying.
“But even with those protective measures taken, it was the judgment of our military commanders that we didn’t drive the risk down low enough. So we didn’t take the shot,” Reuters said it was told by the official.
BREAKING: China says it is looking into a report of a spy balloon spotted over Montana in the U.S. Beijing says it has no intention of violating airspace. https://t.co/tu5nmIJakA
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 3, 2023
Defense expert John Parachini estimated the balloon was as big as three buses.
Montana has a nuclear missile silo field at Malmstrom Air Force Base, according to The Washington Post.
In a letter sent Thursday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, wrote: “The fact that this balloon was occupying Montana airspace creates significant concern that Malmstrom Air Force Base and the United States’ intercontinental ballistic missile fields are the target of this intelligence gathering mission.
“It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised U.S. national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the U.S. that this spy balloon was utilizing,” the letter said, according to the Post.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement he was heartily sick of Chinese intrusions.
“From the spy balloon to the Chinese Communist Party spying on Americans through TikTok to CCP-linked companies buying American farmland, I’m deeply troubled by the constant stream of alarming developments for our national security,” Gianforte said, per the Post.
The New York Times said the balloon came from China across the Aleutian Islands and through northwestern Canada before reaching Montana. The Times quoted an official it did not name as saying the balloon has limited intelligence-gathering values given that China has spy satellites monitoring America.
Secretary Blinken should cancel his trip to China.
And President Biden must answer why he has not secured U.S. airspace.https://t.co/PqwFLCpVhN
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 2, 2023
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China was in the process of “verifying” the situation.
“I would like to emphasize that until the facts are clarified, speculation and hype will not be helpful to the proper resolution of the issue,” she said, according to Reuters.
The incident comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China next week.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.