China Says It’s Checking Whether It Sent Spy Balloon to Montana

A photo of a white spy balloon in the sky over Montana.

Who knew such an innocent-looking balloon could be a spy.
Photo: Larry Mayer (AP)

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… Chinese spy balloon? According to China, the answer could be “maybe.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry addressed the balloon incident in a daily briefing on Friday and stated it was “verifying” the situation, according to Reuters. Reports of a giant white spy balloon in Montana, which houses one of the nation’s nuclear launch facilities, captivated the internet on Thursday, capturing the attention of U.S. military officials and President Joe Biden. At the briefing, the foreign ministry did not deny that the balloon belonged to China.

Spokesperson Mao Ning discouraged speculation and hype around the spy balloon until facts were clarified and pointed out that China was a law-abiding country. Per the Associated Press, she pointed out that China hoped both sides could resolve the matter “calmly and carefully.”

“China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international laws, and China has no intention of violating the territory and airspace of any sovereign country,” Mao said.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., officials informed Chinese diplomats they found the spy balloon and communicated that this was a serious situation, Reuters reported. A Biden administration official told NBC News that the government was confident the spy balloon belonged to China.

For all the fuss about the spy balloon, it doesn’t seem to have been very effective. A U.S. official told Reuters that the spy balloon had “limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective.”

It’s not clear what will happen to China’s purported spy balloon now that its cover’s been blown. Top defense and military officials recommended Biden against shooting down the balloon because of the possible safety risks to the public from the debris. The AP reported that Biden accepted the recommendation.

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