An alleged Chinese spy balloon that has been traveling over northern states for several days is being watched by the US government.
The U.S. government has discovered a high altitude surveillance balloon over the continental United States, according to Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder during a briefing on Thursday afternoon.
"The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government to include Norad, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the US government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information," Ryder said.
The U.S. government is "confident" that the surveillance balloon belongs to the People's Republic of China, according to a senior defense official.
The balloon was recently over Montana, according to the defense official, and officials had considered shooting the plane down with military equipment but decided against it due to the risks.
In a meeting with senior Department of Defense management on Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin brought up the balloon. It was decided not to use military force because of "the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field," the official said. Austin was traveling to Camp Navarro in the Philippines at the time, which is about 2,000 miles away from China.
The discovery of the balloon coincides with an agreement between the United States and the Philippines to increase military presence on the islands amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan.