MISSOURI, USA — Thursday afternoon, a Chinese “spy balloon” was spotted moving east over the central United States, according to the Pentagon located in the U.S. Department of Defense.
The surveillance device was also seen hovering over Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstorm Air Force Base, and over Kansas and Missouri as of Friday midday.
On Twitter, Missouri Senator Nick Schroer shared a letter urging Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to activate the Air National Guard and use other resources to bring down the surveillance balloon and to protect Missouri residents.
In the letter, Schroer said according to the Pentagon, this “spy balloon” is owned and operated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP failed to obtain any authorization from the U.S. government to enter the country's airspace.
Schroer also claims in the letter that even though the federal government knew about this balloon coming from China to the U.S. for several days, it was not until Feb. 2 that the incident hit the news when the device was floating over Montana.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, refused to provide details on exactly where the balloon was or whether there was any new consideration of shooting the balloon down. The military ruled that option out, officials said, due to possible risks to people on the ground.
Ryder also said the balloon was at an altitude of about 60,000 feet, similar to the span of three school buses. It was maneuverable and had changed course when first reported. He said there was only one balloon being tracked.
A senior defense official said the U.S. prepared fighter jets, including F-22s to shoot down the balloon if ordered.
The Pentagon also said the U.S. rejected China’s claims that the balloon was not being used for spying, describing it as a surveillance vehicle.
China claims that the balloon was a weather research “airship” that had blown off course.
The incident came just before the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was about to visit Beijing on a high-stakes diplomatic trip. But the incident postponed the trip and marked a new blow to the already strained U.S.-Chinese relations.
President Biden declined to comment when questioned at an economic event.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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