US: Pentagon tracking Chinese spy balloon surveilling nuclear weapons sites
A Chinese spy balloon is reportedly flying over the United States (US), surveilling its highly sensitive nuclear weapons sites, the Pentagon said on Thursday. It is currently being tracked as the Pentagon believes it doesn't pose a particularly dangerous intelligence threat. Military officials mulled shooting it down at President Joe Biden's request. However, they didn't proceed, considering the risk to people on the ground.
Why does this story matter?
- The US and China are engaged in a tug-of-war over global dominance with constant efforts to one-up each other.
- Amid this, tensions are simmering between the two countries over Taiwan, which resists China's claims over itself.
- The US is arming Taiwan, the independently governed island, to fight back against Chinese military actions seeking to reunite it with the mainland.
Flying above altitude of commercial air traffic
The Chinese balloon flew over the US northwest, which harbors sensitive airbases and strategic missiles in silos. The balloon entered US airspace a couple of days ago and is flying at an altitude much above commercial air traffic, said US military officials. They said it would manage to gather limited intelligence, adding that it was being tracked since before it entered US airspace.
Pentagon refused to confirm suspected photos of the balloon
US Secretary of State expected to visit Beijing soon
Fighter jets were scrambled to examine the balloon, with discussions underway while it was flying over Montana. Photos of a large white balloon hovering over the area have emerged in the media. However, the Pentagon hasn't confirmed if it's the surveillance balloon. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to make his first Beijing visit this weekend to find some common diplomatic ground.
Previous Chinese high-altitude balloons did not loiter for long
Although China reportedly sent surveillance balloons over the US earlier as well, officials say this one has lingered over the country for much longer. The balloon was spotted over Billings in Montana near the Malmstrom Air Force Base, one of the US's three nuclear missile silo fields. The balloon also flew over the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of Alaska, and through Canada.