Amateur shot from Montana said to show the Chinese balloon
Photo: Larry Mayer/AP
According to the Pentagon, a Chinese spy balloon has entered US airspace and is flying over the north-west of the country.
The balloon has been closely monitored for several days, a senior US Department of Defense official said on Thursday.
A possible launch was rejected.
The balloon is flying at high altitude, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
The aircraft was sighted over the rather sparsely populated state of Montana.
The local newspaper Billings Gazette published an amateur video purporting to show the balloon over the town of Billings.
However, the newspaper writes about a suspected satellite, which is not correct.
Apparently, the balloon was supposed to spy on highly sensitive bases for US nuclear weapons.
In Montana there are silos for Minuteman III ICBMs, as the US broadcaster CNN reports.
"The aim of the balloon is clearly espionage," said the official accordingly.
However, the Pentagon assumes that there is no particularly high risk of important things being spied on.
Appropriate steps have been taken.
The balloon does not pose a military threat either.
After the discovery of the balloon, US President Joe Biden reportedly ordered a possible launch to be examined.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and top military officials ultimately decided against it because shooting down would endanger too many people on the ground.
First, fighter jets were put on alert at Billings Airport and civil air traffic was temporarily suspended.
One is sure that the balloon comes from China, it said.
Similar incidents have happened in the past.
The difference this time is that the balloon stays longer than usual over the United States.
According to the Pentagon, the balloon poses no danger to aircraft due to its high altitude.
The US is in contact with China regarding the discovery, both at the embassy in Washington and at its own mission in Beijing.
The timing of the incident is noteworthy.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to visit China in the coming days.