Posted 44 days ago
China acknowledged Friday that a high-altitude balloon spotted this week over Montana does in fact belong to Beijing, but it referred to the airship as a civilian device "used for scientific research such as meteorology." A senior defense official told CBS News on Thursday that the Defense Department was "confident" that it was, in fact, a Chinese surveillance balloon.
According to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry, the airship was "affected by the westerly wind" and its ability to control its direction "is limited." The statement also says that the balloon "seriously deviated from the scheduled route" and expressed regret that "the airship strayed into the United States due to force majeure."
By Friday morning, the balloon was no longer over Montana but had moved over the Midwest and is now over "the middle of the country," according to a U. S. official. A Chinese balloon has never been over the middle of the country before. The only other time a Chinese balloon has flown over the continental U.S. was during a brief overflight of Florida. There have been overflights of Hawaii and Guam. In previous instances, the Chinese have been able to recover the balloon. Although it can maneuver, it will still travel in the direction it is carried by the jet stream.
There has been some discussion of trying to somehow capture the balloon, but this official says that this is not possible.
The U. S. views the Chinese explanation of the balloon's purpose with "a fair amount of skepticism," and it is still trying to figure out what China's intent was.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to travel to China this weekend for a diplomatic trip, but as the Biden administration weighs a broader response to the discovery of the balloon, his trip was postponed, two diplomatic sources tell CBS News. However, the U. S. does not believe it was timed to scuttle Blinken's trip.
It's not going to run out of fuel, since it has solar panels. The official also said that the balloon steers by rudder and is corkscrewing around to slow its progress over land, but the jet stream continues to move it on a trajectory across the U. S. The Pentagon is still considering ways to "dispose" of it but has "grave concerns" about the damage it would cause if it fell to earth.
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