Suspected Spy Balloon is a Civilian Airship
The Chinese foreign ministry claimed the balloon was a "civilian airship" used for weather research that deviated from its planned course due to the Westerlies. The statement is the first admission that the airship originated from China.
US Military Reacts
A US military official said the incident is serious because of the "audacity" of the Chinese government and not because of any intelligence gain. The spy balloon's timing, before Blinken's trip, and the fact that it was over the continental US make it a serious moment.
Blinken's Prior Trip to Beijing
Blinken's trip to Beijing was planned to follow President Joe Biden's meeting with Xi Jinping in Bali late last year. The two presidents openly discussed during the G20 meeting and shared their intentions and priorities.
State Department Summons Chinese Charge
The State Department summoned China's charge d'affaires to deliver a clear message regarding the spy balloon discovery. The balloon was spotted over Montana, where 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles are located.
The Pentagon tracked the balloon for several days and stated that it was traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and did not pose a threat to people on the ground. The US defense official confirmed that the balloon belonged to the People's Republic of China and had limited intelligence gathering risk.
Source of Power
The balloon's surveillance equipment appears to be powered by a solar array, providing a reliable power source at high altitudes. However, it cannot steer the balloon. The Pentagon did not believe the balloon had surveillance capabilities beyond Chinese spy satellites.