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China says balloon found over US was for research and was blown off course

BEIJING (AP) — China said on Friday that a balloon spotted in US airspace was used for weather research and was blown off course. aggravated.

The Department of Defense has decided not to shoot down balloons that may be flying over sensitive locations due to concerns about harming people on the ground.

The news comes as Secretary of State Anthony Brinken is expected to visit Beijing for the first time this weekend. The visit had not been officially announced, and it was not immediately clear whether the discovery of the balloon would affect his travel plans. He said he didn’t have one.

Blinken visited China as the highest-ranking member of the Joe Biden administration and saw a sharp deterioration in relations between the two countries amid concerns over trade disputes and Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance on Taiwan and the South China Sea. I have a duty to mitigate.

In a statement late Friday, China’s foreign ministry said the balloons are civilian airships used mainly for meteorological research. The ministry said the wind limited the airship’s ability to maneuver and “deviated significantly from its planned course.”

“The Chinese side regrets that the airship unintentionally entered U.S. airspace due to force majeure,” the statement said, citing legal language used to refer to events beyond its control.

A senior U.S. defense official told Pentagon reporters Thursday that the object recently discovered in U.S. airspace was a Chinese high-altitude balloon that was flying over a classified site to gather information. One of the locations where the balloon was found is in Montana, where Malmstrom Air Force Base is one of three nuclear missile silo fields in the United States. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information.

A defense official said the US assessed the balloons to be of “limited” value in providing information that other technologies, such as spy satellites, could not provide.

It wasn’t clear what would happen if the balloon wasn’t lowered.

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. General Patrick Ryder said on Thursday that similar ballooning activity has been seen for the past few years and the government is taking steps to ensure sensitive information is not stolen.

He said the balloons were flying well above the altitude at which commercial aircraft fly and posed no threat to people on the ground.

Biden was briefed and asked to present his options to the military, according to senior government officials who are not even authorized to discuss classified information publicly. A senior defense official said the US prepared fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the balloons if ordered to do so.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley advised against taking “kinetic action” because of the risk to the safety of people on the ground. Biden accepted that recommendation.

The balloon was flying over a sparsely populated area of ​​Montana, but its size created debris large enough to endanger people.

Defense officials did not specify the balloon’s size, but said commercial pilots could spot it from the cockpit.

The balloon was first reported by NBC News.

The Billings Gazette captured a picture of a large white balloon hovering over the area. Gazette photographer Larry Meyer said it could be seen floating in and out of clouds, with what appeared to be solar cells hanging from the bottom.

The advent of balloons fuels national security concerns among U.S. lawmakers about China’s influence in the United States, from the proliferation of the wildly popular smartphone app TikTok to the purchase of U.S. farmland.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted: “China’s brazen disregard for US sovereignty is a destabilizing act that must be addressed.

Tensions with China are particularly high on many issues, from Taiwan and the South China Sea, to human rights issues in western China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, to the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. In particular, China’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s refusal to curb the expansion of North Korea’s ballistic missile program, and the ongoing disputes over trade and technology. is included in that list.

On Tuesday, Taiwan scrambled its fighter jets, put its navy on alert and activated its missile systems. It was to respond to a nearby operation by China’s 34 military aircraft and nine warships. This is part of Beijing’s strategy to disrupt and intimidate democracy on the autonomous islands.

Twenty of them crossed the Central Line of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial buffer zone between the two countries separated by the 1949 civil war.

Beijing is also stepping up preparations for a potential blockade or military action against Taiwan, raising concerns among military leaders, diplomats and elected officials of Taiwan’s key ally, the United States.

https://www.mystateline.com/news/china-says-balloon-spotted-over-us-is-for-research-was-blown-off-course/ China says balloon found over US was for research and was blown off course

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