The US Pentagon has been on the alert as a Chinese spy balloon has been spotted flying at high altitude over US territory (and Canada), passing over sensitive military installations.
The incident, reminiscent of spy movies, was announced less than 24 hours before US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken traveled to China.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the US government has been tracking the balloon for several days as it made its way over the northern United States, adding it was “traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”
At the behest of President Joe Biden, the Pentagon considered shooting down the balloon. But the downing was not advanced because of the potential danger to people on the ground from the debris, a senior US Defense Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“We have no doubts about the fact that the balloon belongs to China,” he clarified.
“We are taking steps to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” he continued, insisting that the “added value” of gathering information from the “fairly large” balloon is rather “limited.”