The skies over the United States have been a bit more crowded lately, as a Chinese surveillance balloon has been detected flying over Montana. This has caused a stir among U.S. officials, with multiple Republican lawmakers and former President Trump calling on President Biden to shoot it down. The Pentagon has confirmed the balloon and its origin, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has claimed that it is a “civilian airship” that had blown off course. However, U.S. officials are adamant that this was an intentional act and that the balloon was launched from mainland China.
The balloon is currently flying at 60,000 feet, which is higher than most U.S. warplanes or aircraft can fly. President Biden has weighed military options to deal with the balloon, but for now has decided against shooting the balloon down. This is due to the possibility of American civilian casualties and collateral damage that could result from shooting it down.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the airship is from China and is used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. They have claimed that the balloon deviated far from its planned course due to the Westerlies and limited self-steering capability. However, U.S. officials reject this characterization of the incident, and have labeled it an “unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty”.
The situation has been tense between the two countries, and it remains to be seen how President Biden will handle the Chinese surveillance balloon. The Pentagon has acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information, and the president may use military options to bring down the balloon if it becomes safe to do so. It will be interesting to see how the Biden administration deals with this unexpected situation.