NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 02:01
The US Department of Defense has been monitoring a balloon with which China would spy on the Americans for days. The US military has considered shooting the device out of the air, but has decided not to do so for the time being due to damage to the ground from falling debris. President Biden has been briefed by the Pentagon.
The balloon dived over American territory a few days ago, at a high altitude. Via the Aleutian Islands, the thing flew over Canada to the western US state of Montana, where the balloon was seen on Wednesday. The Pentagon, which has followed the balloon with a military aircraft, did not want to say last night where the balloon is now.
“It is clear that the intention is to spy with this balloon,” a Defense Ministry spokesman told assembled journalists. Washington doesn’t think the device can collect much sensitive intelligence at this point because it knows exactly where the balloon is. However, the balloon could later fly over a number of important places.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
The precise purpose of the Chinese operation in this region of the US is not clear. Malmstrom Air Base is located in Montana, where the US can fire intercontinental ballistic missiles from. There are about 150 of those missiles on the base. The Pentagon would not confirm whether it is known whether the Chinese want to keep an eye on that base.
In recent years, spy balloons have been spotted over the US more often. This time the balloon seems to take longer, according to the ministry.
Blink to China
The Americans have addressed the Chinese embassy in Washington about the operation and American diplomats have also expressed their objections in Beijing. “We have let them know how seriously we take this,” said the spokesperson. The Chinese mission in Washington has not commented on the matter to the media.
The issue will probably also be discussed when Minister Blinken of Foreign Affairs visits China in the coming days. Against the backdrop of the sharply increased tensions between the US and China, he will talk about Taiwan and the corona virus, among other things. He may also speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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