A Chinese spy balloon has been flying at high altitudes above the continental United States, Pentagon officials said on Thursday.
“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 Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement to multiple news outlets. “We continue to track and monitor it closely. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
A senior defense official said the U.S. is certain that the balloon belongs to China.
“I’m not going to go into all the ways in which we know that it’s a PRC balloon, I will just say we have very high confidence that this is a PRC balloon, very high confidence,” one official said. “So we do not doubt that this is a PRC balloon.”
The aircraft is the size of three buses, and has a technology bay, one official told NBC News. Officials decided against shooting down the balloon in case falling debris caused injuries or devastation on the ground.
“Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” Ryder told NBC News.
The discovery comes just days ahead of a high level U.S. trip to Beijing, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.