A senior U.S. defense official rejects China’s claim the balloon above Montana arrived accidentally, according to a Fox News report.
The balloon that Chinese officials admit was launched from the People’s Republic of China is flying 60,000 feet above Montana. That height is above the cruising altitude at which most U.S. airlines or military aircraft may fly.
The absence of danger to aviation does not mitigate the potential danger to national security from a balloon that may be gathering intelligence data. That possibility has led some Republican lawmakers and former President Donald Trump to call for the balloon to be shot down by U.S. military force.
“The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry 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 U.S. airspace due to force majeure,” the spokesperson continued. “The Chinese side will continue communicating with the U.S. side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure.”
There was no “force majeure” that caused the Chinese surveillance balloon to enter U.S. airspace, the defense official declared, according to the Fox report.
“This was intentional,” the senior U.S. official said.
It was a “statement of fact” the Chinese balloon flying above the United States “is a clear and unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty,” senior State Department officials reportedly said Friday.
The defense official cited in the Fox report called it a “bold” decision by the Chinese government to fly a surveillance aircraft in U.S. airspace. The report noted the U.S. does not fly spy planes above the People’s Republic of China, according to the senior Defense Department official.
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