February 3, 2023

Pentagon alleges Chinese spy balloon flies over US

By Biodun Busari

United States officials have alleged that a suspected Chinese spy balloon has been flying over the US for a couple of days ahead of a planned trip by the Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing.

The officials revealed this on Thursday, as fighter planes were prepared to shoot the balloon out of the sky, according to Reuters on Friday.

Military chiefs, however, advised US President Joe Biden against shooting the balloon for fear of debris that could pose a safety hazard.

Reuters reported that the US took “custody” of the balloon when it entered US airspace and had detected it with its piloted military aircraft, one of the officials told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The incident recalls the lengths to which Beijing and Washington have been willing to go to spy on each other amid rising tensions between the superpowers.

“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters.

“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.”

Beijing has cautioned over the unsubstantiated allegation, promising to verify before taking action.

Blinken is expected to travel to China next week for a visit agreed to in November by Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was not clear how the discovery of the spy balloon might affect those plans.