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Chinese spy balloons suspected of flying over the US: What we know so far

China confirmed Friday that a high-altitude balloon spotted over Montana this week is actually from Beijing, but said the airship was a civilian device “used for scientific research such as meteorology.” Mentioned. A senior defense official told CBS News on Thursday that the Pentagon was “confident” it was in fact a Chinese surveillance balloon.

U.S. officials say the payload of the balloon, or the portion of the balloon that conducts surveillance under it, is about the size of two or three school buses, and the balloon itself is much larger.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the airship was “affected by the westerly wind” and its ability to control its direction was “limited.” The statement also said the balloon “seriously deviated from its scheduled route” and expressed regret that “the airship strayed into the United States due to force majeure.”

By Friday morning, the balloon was no longer over Montana, it was over the Midwest and is now over “the center of the country,” U.S. officials said. Never before had a Chinese balloon passed through the middle of the country. The only time a Chinese balloon has flown over the continental United States is for a brief flight over Florida. There were flights over Hawaii and Guam. In previous instances, the Chinese were able to retrieve the balloon. It can be steered, but it will move in the direction of the jet stream.

US officials said the balloon was flying at an altitude of about 66,000 feet. Although it is maneuverable, it is susceptible to jet streams and could eventually be pushed out of U.S. airspace, officials said.

Later in the day, Kansas City’s National Weather Service tweeted, “We have received multiple reports from NWMO of seeing a large balloon on the horizon,” and “confirmed it was not a NWS weather balloon.

Meteorologist Evan Fisher shared a photo of the balloon on Twitter and estimated it was in the South Carolina area as of Saturday morning.

According to Pentagon spokesman Brig, the balloon will pass over the United States over the next few days. General Patrick Ryder. It is heading east, and US officials have suggested that meteorologists can provide some guidance on that direction.

Meteorologist Ryan Truchelut estimated the balloon’s trajectory based on the NOAA model, which simulates the trajectory of materials transported through the atmosphere.. The way the balloon should go he tweetedAt an altitude of 15 km (about 49,000 feet), the balloon “races eastward to the sea,” he writes. At an altitude of 20 km (over 65,000 feet), “heading to the southeast coast.” Then, at an altitude of 25 km (over 82,000 feet), “turn back west.”

He pointed to predictions that assumed balloons were “uncontrolled (or ‘derelict’) passive pursuers.”

There have been some discussions about trying to somehow capture the balloon, but US officials say this is not possible.

Riders refused to give specific dimensions of the balloon.Property damage. “

The United States views China’s explanation of the balloon’s purpose with “considerable skepticism” and is trying to figure out what China’s intentions were.

It looks like yet another balloon was sighted Friday evening. This balloon is further south in Latin America.

“We have received reports that the balloon passed over Latin America,” Ryder said in a statement. “We are now determining that it is another Chinese surveillance balloon.”

Secretary of State Anthony Brinken He was expected to travel to China this weekend for a diplomatic trip, but his trip has been postponed as the Biden administration considers a broader response to the discovery of the first balloon, the people said. Two diplomatic sources told CBS News.

The balloon is equipped with solar panels so you will never run out of fuel. Officials also said the balloon was steered by a rudder and moved around with a corkscrew to slow its progress over land, but the jet stream continues to move the balloon in orbit across the United States. We are considering ways to “dispose” of the .

It’s hard to find a precise definition of how much sovereign airspace extends, but government lawyers consider this a violation of US airspace.

The US has “urgently” negotiated with Chinese officials and President Biden has been briefed on the situation, the senior defense official said. On Friday morning, a senior US official said Washington had communicated directly with Beijing about the situation at multiple levels. Chinese officials have been subpoenaed to the State Department for formal U.S. complaints.

Answering questions during a regular briefing in Beijing on Friday, a spokesman for ChinaThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country “regrets that the airship has strayed into the United States”, blaming it for “westerly winds” and the “controllability” of the equipment.

A spokesman said China “will continue to maintain communication with the United States to properly respond to unforeseen circumstances.”

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Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley recommended not taking “dynamic actions” to lower the balloon because of the risk of debris hitting the ground, a defense official told CBS News. pose a threat.

A source familiar with the situation told CBS News that Biden initially wanted to shoot down the balloon when briefed on Wednesday. However, when he asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Millie, and others for military options, they advised against such action, citing the risks to people on the ground.

A US official told CBS News they are still deciding what to do with the balloon on Friday when it reaches an area where it can be safely shot down.

When Biden was asked about the balloon on Saturday morning, he told reporters, “We’re going to handle it.”

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said balloons “currently fly at much higher altitudes than commercial air traffic and pose no military or physical threat to people on the ground.” said.

A US official told CBS News on Friday that the balloon was “not moving very fast.”

A balloon flies over Billings, Montana on February 1, 2023, in this photo from social media.
A balloon flies over Billings, Montana on February 1, 2023, in this photo from social media.

Chase Doak by Reuters

The Canadian Department of Defense (DND) said in a statement late Thursday that the balloon had been “discovered” and that Canada was “taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including monitoring a potential second incident.” said, but didn’t. Please elaborate on what the incident is.

However, CBS News learned that the US failed to confirm a possible second balloon mentioned in the Canadian release.

According to Canada’s DND, the North American Aerospace Defense Command was “actively” tracking the first balloon.

There was a silo in Montana that could hold an intercontinental ballistic missile, and a jet fighter was positioned to shoot down the balloon.

Such incidents have happened before, but never lasted this long, according to defense officials. said the official.

The Pentagon’s best assessment at the moment is that balloon surveillance capabilities have not improved significantly from what China could likely gather through other means, such as satellites in low-Earth orbit. Out of caution, the Department of Defense has taken additional mitigations to protect certain sites.

A U.S. official told CBS News that there are other ways to deal with it than just shooting it down.

Ryder said the US government will continue to “follow and monitor closely.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted on Thursday that “China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing act that must be addressed and President Biden must not remain silent.”

“I’m requesting a Gang of Eight briefing,” he said. I have writtenrefers to a bipartisan group of eight congressional leaders tasked with reviewing national intelligence information.

A U.S. official told CBS News on Thursday night that the administration briefed the eight-member gang in the afternoon “to quickly present this information to Congress and provide additional briefings.”

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement Thursday that he had “received an information briefing” on Wednesday “regarding the situation involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over Montana.” We are deeply troubled by the constant flow of developments,” he added. for our national security. ”

David Martin, Eleanor Watson, and Margaret Brennan contributed to the report.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/chinese-spy-balloon-montana-flight-tracking/ Chinese spy balloons suspected of flying over the US: What we know so far

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