The statement also emphasized that China has no intention of violating other countries' airspace and called for calm to establish the facts.
US Secretary of State Visit to Beijing
The discovery of the balloon comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to make his first trip to Beijing. The journey has yet to be formally announced, and it's unclear if the balloon discovery will affect it. A senior US defense official stated that the US has "very high confidence" that the object was a Chinese high-altitude balloon flying over sensitive sites.
China Urges Calm While Facts Are Established
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stressed that China is a responsible country and strictly abides by international laws. Mao said China is working to understand the situation and to handle it calmly and carefully. On the other hand, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said that similar balloons had been seen in the past, and steps had been taken to ensure no sensitive information was stolen.
US President Biden Briefed
US President Biden was briefed on the situation, and the military presented options, according to a senior administration official. However, the defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman advised against shooting down the balloon due to risks to people on the ground, which Biden accepted. The senior defense official added that the balloon had limited intelligence value compared to other technologies like spy satellites.
China's Influence in the US under Scrutiny
The appearance of the balloon has increased national security concerns among US lawmakers about China's influence in the US. Tensions between the US and China are already high on numerous issues, including Taiwan, the South China Sea, human rights in Xinjiang, and democracy in Hong Kong.