The Pentagon has announced that it has been tracking a suspected Chinese spy balloon floating above Billings, Montana, which has been seen flying over the United States over the past few days after entering the U.S. through Alaska and traveling through Canada.
BREAKING 🚨: The pentagon has confirmed that the unknown object over Montana yesterday was a Chinese spy balloon pic.twitter.com/cLVShhrEHb
— Latest in space 🪐 (@latestinspace) February 3, 2023
Biden administration officials briefed the media on Thursday evening.
“The United States Government has detected and is tracking a high altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said. “The U.S. government, to include 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,” he added. “Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
Ryder also revealed that the U.S. government has been “engaged” with Chinese officials to discuss the matter.
According to reports, President Joe Biden ordered the balloon to be shot down — but the Pentagon overruled him, claiming it was dangerous due to falling debris.
The Pentagon's reasoning for not shooting down a Chinese Spy Balloon above Montana…. you can't make this up..
Falling debris could injure those on the ground…
In Montana…. a massive state with a tiny population… FFS…
— Matt Couch (@RealMattCouch) February 3, 2023
Meanwhile, critics have argued that former President Donald Trump would have been stronger in his response.
So we found a massive Chinese spy balloon over Montana. Are we going to take it out or just going to follow it in circles and track it?
Trump would have blown it up by now. Just sayin.
— Kambree (@KamVTV) February 3, 2023
A senior defense official told reporters that the government has “very high confidence” that the balloon belongs to the Chinese government, asserting that it had been flying over sensitive areas in an effort to collect information.
Montana is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields, which is located at the Malmstrom Air Force base.
The Air Force did scramble F-22 raptors to engage the balloon, but they ultimately didn’t take any action.
Lt. Col. Danny Davis, senior fellow at Defense Priorities, appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Jesse Watters Primetime” on Thursday evening to discuss the issue, breaking down the reasons for the Pentagon’s refusal to shoot the surveillance balloon down.
He noted that the Chinese government has “plenty of low-earth orbit satellites that have much greater visibility and much higher clarity, and can do a lot better spying,” asserting that the surveillance balloon was actually a message to the U.S. that China knows where the nuclear missile silos are in case “anything happens with the Taiwan issue.”