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Blinken cancels trip to China after surveillance balloon

The balloon over Montana. Associated Press/Photo by Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette

Blinken cancels trip to China after surveillance balloon

Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his trip to China on Friday after officials said that a large surveillance balloon was spotted over Montana. The balloon has been floating in United States airspace for a couple of days, a senior defense official said Thursday, and the current flight path carries it across “sensitive sites” in Montana. Montana is home to one of the three U.S. sites for nuclear silos. The defense official gave a briefing to reporters but remained anonymous for security purposes. The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday described the balloon as a “civilian airship” used mainly for weather research.

How valuable is intelligence from a spy balloon? Any information the balloon gleans is probably not better than information China has from low-earth orbit satellites, the defense official said. The balloon is floating high enough to not pose a physical threat to civilian airspace, he said. The military decided not to shoot down the balloon, deeming the risk too high for civilians or their property. Chinese balloons have been spotted a handful of times, the official said, including before the Biden administration. But this balloon has stuck around longer, he said. 

Dig deeper: Read Les Sillars’ report in World Magazine on how the government’s response to UFOs has changed over the years.

Mary Muncy

Mary Muncy is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. She graduated from World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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