China REFUSES to deny spy balloon is theirs as Canada probes ‘potential second incident’
China has refused to deny it owns a spy balloon being tracked over the United States as Canada said it was investigating a ‘potential second incident’ and former President Donald Trump joined calls to shoot down the device.
US officials said they are confident the balloon observed over the US belongs to China, but the Chinese foreign ministry has urged against speculation while it investigates.
The balloon – which is as large as three buses – was detected earlier this week and recently crossed over the airspace in Montana, triggering fears it could be monitoring nuclear sites there. President Joe Biden reportedly wanted to bring down the balloon but he was advised against it by military officials over safety fears.
Former President Donald Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Friday: ‘SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!’
On Thursday night, Canada said it was also ‘actively’ tracking a ‘high-altitude surveillance balloon’ and officials were working to determine whether it’s the same one the Pentagon detected over the continental United States.
A US defense official said the balloon is the size of several buses – but doesn’t post an immediate threat to Americans. The balloon, pictured over Montana, has been tracked for several days but officials decided not to shoot it down over fears about debris
Montana Senator Steve Daines fears the Chinese spy balloon floating above the state was targeting nuclear missile fields installed there.
US officials said they have taken ‘custody’ of the balloon. They are thought to believe the balloon has ‘limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective’.
The balloon was detected days before a planned trip to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Republican senators have called on Blinken to cancel the trip, which was agreed by Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Mao Ning, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said: ‘Until the facts are clear, making conjectures and hyping up the issue will not help to properly resolve it.
‘China is a responsible country and always abides strictly by international law. We have no intention of violating the territory or airspace of any sovereign country.’
In a statement on Thursday, the Canadian government said: ‘A high-altitude surveillance balloon was detected and its movements are being actively tracked by North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
‘Canadians are safe and Canada is taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including the monitoring of a potential second incident.
‘NORAD, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence, and other partners have been assessing the situation and working in close coordination.
‘Canada’s intelligence agencies are working with American partners and continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard Canada’s sensitive information from foreign intelligence threats.
‘We remain in frequent contact with our American allies as the situation develops.’
The balloon flew over the Aleutian Islands in the northern Pacific Ocean, and then crossed Canadian airspace into the United States. Canada is monitoring a ‘potential second incident’
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, said the spy balloon was alarming but not surprising.
‘The level of espionage aimed at our country by Beijing has grown dramatically more intense & brazen over the last 5 years,’ Rubio said on Twitter.
Arkansas’ Republican Senator, Tom Cotton, said: ‘President Biden should stop coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists. Bring the balloon down now and exploit its tech package, which could be an intelligence bonanza.
‘And President Biden and Secretary Austin need to answer if this ballon was detected over Alaskan airspace. If so, why didn’t we bring it down there? If not, why not?
As usual, the Chinese Communists’ provocations have been met with weakness and hand-wringing.’
The discovery has put the militaries and intelligence services of the United States and Canada on alert.
F-22 fight jets were mobilized to track the device as it oved over Montana, which borders Canada, on Wednesday.
A US defense official said it entered US airspace ‘a couple days ago’ but its exact location has not been shared.
China is thought to be flying a surveillance balloon over the United States, and Joe Biden (left) wanted to shoot it down. Pictured right is President Xi Jinping
The balloon flew over the vast state of Montana, which borders Canada, and at an altitude well above commercial air traffic.
Before that, it’s path was tracked over the Aleutian Islands in the northern Pacific Ocean, then over Canadian airspace into the United States.
A US official said the balloon was as large as three buses.
‘There have been reports of pilots seeing this thing, even though it’s pretty high up in the sky,’ the official added.
‘So, you know, it’s sizeable.’
A senior Pentagon official said the United States had ‘very high confidence’ that it is a Chinese balloon.
‘We do not doubt that this is a PRC balloon,’ the official said, using an acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
China said it was working to verify the US claim.
The balloon is large enough that destroying it would rain down debris, risking the safety of people on the ground, US officials said, adding: ‘Does it pose a threat to civilian aviation? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a significantly enhanced threat on the intelligence side? Our best assessment right now is that it does not.’
The news initially broke as CIA Director William Burns was speaking at an event at Washington’s Georgetown University, where he called China the ‘biggest geopolitical challenge’ facing the United States.