Chinese ‘surveillance’ balloon hovers over US – that’s why it wasn’t shot down

A giant Chinese high-altitude balloon has soared over the US as Secretary of State Antony Blinken abruptly canceled a high-level trip to Beijing aimed at defusing US-China tensions.

Blurred videos littered social media as the “spy balloon” flew southeast over Kansas and Missouri at 60,000 feet.

It was sighted earlier over Montana, where Malmstrom Air Force Base is one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields, defense officials said.

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Later Friday, the Pentagon confirmed reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now assume that this is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” said Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary.

US officials say it is “unacceptable” that a Chinese balloon entered the country’s airspace. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

The U.S. has been tracking the first balloon since at least Tuesday, when President Joe Biden was first briefed, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

According to three US officials, Biden was initially inclined to have the surveillance balloon blown out of the sky but was strongly discouraged because the debris could have endangered people on the ground.

The Pentagon also assessed that after unspecified US actions, the balloon was not likely to reveal critical information.

Blinken, who was due to leave Washington for Beijing late Friday, said he told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon through the US was “an irresponsible act and[China’s]decision to allow that measure.” The eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to engage in.”

Blinken said he remains willing to travel to China “if conditions allow.”

Several top Republicans have blasted the Biden administration for “allowing” the balloon to enter — although White House officials said another was pursued during Donald Trump’s presidency.

China’s claim that the balloon was merely an off-course weather research “airship” was dismissed by the Pentagon.

However, weather experts said the claim was not unfeasible. China’s depiction of wind patterns known as west winds carrying a balloon to the western United States was “perfectly possible — probably not possible,” said Dan Jaffe, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Washington.

Blinken’s long-awaited meetings with senior Chinese officials were seen in both countries as a possible way to find some common ground at a time of major disagreements over Taiwan, human rights, China’s claims in the South China Sea, North Korea, Russia’s war in Ukraine, trade policies and climate change.

China, which has furiously denounced surveillance attempts by the US and other countries in areas it considers its territory, has been relatively forgiving in its response to US complaints.

In a statement that came close to an apology, China’s foreign ministry said the balloon was a civilian airship with limited “self-piloting” capabilities and had “deviated widely from its planned course” due to winds.

“The Chinese side regrets the accidental entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” the statement said, citing a legal term used to refer to events beyond its control.

The Abdallah family speaks out for forgiveness.

The Abdallah family speaks out for forgiveness. Chinese ‘surveillance’ balloon hovers over US – that’s why it wasn’t shot down

James Brien

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