Last week, a Chinese spy balloon flew across the United States from Alaska to North Carolina and was shot down by US military on Saturday afternoon.

The Chinese Spy Balloon

The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon is flying about 60,000 feet, higher than a civilian aircraft, above the United States, according to Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, and is about the size of three school buses.

The Pentagon said Friday evening that another Chinese spy balloon is currently transiting Latin America.

Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Friday that China claims the balloon is a civilian reconnaissance airship that inadvertently drifted off course. The Pentagon does not believe this was a weather balloon that flew off course.

There was no “force majeure” that caused the Chinese surveillance balloon to enter U.S. airspace, as China’s foreign ministry spokesperson had said. 

The first report of the flying Chinese balloon began in Minnesota and slowly transitioned across the United States. Montana is home to one of the three American nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

A senior U.S. Defense official told Fox News the balloon was launched from mainland China. 

“This was intentional,” a senior U.S. official said.

United States Response to Spy Balloon

The Pentagon says the balloon, which is carrying sensors and surveillance equipment, is maneuverable and has shown it can change course.

U.S. officials say the Biden administration was aware of it before it crossed into American airspace in Alaska early this past week. According to senior administration officials, Biden initially wanted to shoot the balloon down, which was echoed by some members of Congress.

Pentagon officials said it wouldn’t attempt to remove the balloon in U.S. airspace because “any potential debris field would be significant” and could cause “civilian injuries or deaths or significant property damage” but did not provide a plan to respond to the slow-moving violation of “U.S. airspace and international law.”

The Chinese Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning initially said Beijing was “verifying” the balloon, stressing that China hopes “that both sides can handle this together calmly and carefully.”

Biden Orders the Ballon to be Shot Down

According to Fox News, “footage captured by Fox News Saturday morning showed the balloon sitting just above Charlotte, North Carolina, around 10:30 a.m. ET. An image of the balloon hovering above Fairfield, North Carolina, was also shared by meteorology student Evan Fisher earlier Saturday morning.”

On Saturday afternoon, US military fighter jets shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed Saturday.

Ships and military jets were deployed in the area afterward to recover the balloon’s debris. Officials’ goal was to recover as much of the debris as possible before it sank into the ocean. 

After the balloon was shot down, President Joe Biden told reporters on Saturday that he had originally told the Pentagon to shoot the balloon down on Wednesday, but was told it would be best to wait “for the safest place to do it.”

The same type of reconnaissance balloon has been spotted several times over the past few years:

  • Sendai, Japan, on June 17, 2020
  • Ver Port Blair, India, on Jan. 6, 2022. Indian officials were unaware of its origins.
  • Off the coast of Hawaii on Feb. 16, 2022. An Air Canada flight spotted the balloon on approach to Honolulu.

CNN is providing regular updates on the balloon here. This article was written and published at 1 pm Saturday, February 4th.

This article was updated to include shooting down the balloon Saturday afternoon – updated at approx. 5:30 pm February 4th.

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