Monday, 27 Mar 2023

China claims 'spy balloon' hovering above US is a weather device

China has claimed an alleged surveillance balloon the size of three buses spotted above the US is a weather device.

US defence officials immediately raised the alarm over the blimp yesterday, fearing it was flying to sensitive sites to collect information.

But according to Beijing, it’s nothing more than a ‘civilian airship’ used to monitor the weather.

China’s foreign affairs ministry said today the ‘airship’ has limited steering capability and ‘deviated far from its planned course’ after being blown off course.

‘It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes,’ the spokesperson said.

‘Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.

‘The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side to properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure.’

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The Pentagon said the device travelled from China to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, through northwest Canada over the past few days before arriving over Montana, where it was hovering on Wednesday.

At the time, the Pentagon described the device as an ‘intelligence-gathering balloon, most certainly launched by the People’s Republic of China’.

Montana is the home of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, one of three bases that operate intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The US took ‘custody’ of the balloon when it veered into US airspace, with piloted US military aircraft keeping watch.

Canada’s Department of National Defense said in a statement that the movements of a high-altitude surveillance balloon were being ‘actively tracked’ by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, part of the US-Canada military partnership.

‘Canadians are safe, and Canada is taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including the monitoring of a potential second incident,’ the statement said.

A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously said it was ‘verifying the facts’ over the incident.

The US and China have a long history of spying on one another using satellites that orbit hundreds of miles above the earth.

But the Chinese weather balloon has this week all but upstaged a highly-anticipated visit to Beijing by the American secretary of state Anthony Blinken.

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