Chinese officials said on Friday that a spy balloon suspected of being operated by Beijing was spotted flying over classified US airspace and was actually a civilian airship intended for scientific research. rice field.
In a statement, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a westerly wind had caused the airship to stray into US territory, explaining that the incident was the result of a “force majeure” or greater force that it is not responsible for.
“The airship comes from China and is of a civilian nature, used for scientific research such as meteorology.” Statement posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
“The airship was subject to westerly winds and had limited self-control, deviating significantly from its planned route,” he said.
“China regrets that the airship strayed into the United States due to force majeure. China will continue to maintain contact with the United States and handle unforeseen circumstances appropriately,” he added.
The statement comes hours after Beijing urged Washington to remain “calm” amid an investigation into reports that the balloon was hovering over classified airspace in the northern United States.
US accused China on Thursday operate what is said to be a surveillance balloon Further escalating tensions between the two superpowers over where to house their nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Anthony Brinken canceled a planned trip to Beijing this weekend.
Mao Ning, a foreign ministry spokesman, said at a news conference on Friday that authorities were still learning about the issue and that politicians and the public should refrain from making judgments “before they have a clear understanding of the facts.” added.
I would like to request a calm response.
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China
“We are aware of relevant press coverage and are learning about this issue. What I want to emphasize is that speculation and speculation do not lead to proper resolution of issues before they become apparent. ”
“China is a responsible country and acts in accordance with international law.
“Like I said, we’re gathering and verifying the facts, and I hope the parties involved will handle this matter calmly,” she added.
Found in Montana
Witnesses captured footage of what appeared to be a high-altitude balloon over Billings, Montana on Wednesday. CNBC or NBC News were unable to independently verify the footage or identify the flying object.
It reportedly flew over the Aleutian Islands, passed through Canada, and reached Montana. A senior defense official said the balloon was still over the United States, but did not disclose its current location.
After the sighting, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called a meeting of senior military and defense leaders and other combat commanders to review the stratospheric balloon’s threat profile and brief the president. . Joe Biden about possible responses.
Such options included shooting down balloons. That action was ultimately dismissed due to potential risks to the safety and security of people on the ground from the possible rubble.
A senior defense official said authorities continue to monitor the balloons closely and will take “all necessary measures” to prevent foreign intelligence services from collecting classified information.
“At the moment, we assess that the added value of this balloon is limited in terms of intelligence gathering beyond what China can do with other means,” the official said. “Nevertheless, we are taking all necessary steps to protect against the collection of classified information by foreign intelligence services.”
The balloon poses no threat to civil aviation due to its altitude, officials added.
Blinken postpones Beijing visit
The latest escalation in US-China tensions comes when Blinken was scheduled to visit Beijing on Sunday.
But the Secretary of State postponed his trip On Friday, media reports said he did not want the balloon to dominate his talks with Chinese officials.
The White House and Pentagon referred the question to the State Department, which did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Brinken was scheduled to meet with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang and possibly with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 2 days visit to China — It is the first such visit by a US Secretary of State in almost six years and the first by a cabinet member of the Biden administration.
Talks set up by Biden and Xi at G-20 in Bali, Indonesia, In November russian ukrainian wartrade, Taiwan, human rights, and China’s claims in the South China Sea.
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