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Chinese spy balloon – live: Beijing mocks US ‘hype’ over airship incident

China’s foreign ministry has accused American officials of excessively “hyping” the balloon incident.

Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said: “China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law. We do not accept any groundless speculation and hype.

“In the face of unexpected situations, what both parties need to do is to maintain concentration, communicate in a timely manner, avoid misjudgments, and manage and control differences.”

Meanwhile a second Chinese spy balloon has been spotted moving across Latin America, the Pentagon announced on Friday night.

It is unclear exactly which country in the region the balloon is hovering over.

Earlier a senior Pentagon official flatly rejected Beijing’s claims that a Chinese airship spotted flying over sensitive US military sites was a meteorological research balloon.

Defence officials have said the balloon’s flight path had taken it over “a number of sensitive” military sites, including the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which houses 150 nuclear warheads.

On Friday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to China after Beijing admitted ownership of the balloon.

Key Points

  • China says US officials 'hyping' balloon incident

  • Chinese social media mocks balloon incident

  • China plays down Blinken's cancelled visit

  • Pentagon says second Chinese spy balloon spotted in skies over Latin America

  • China admits Montana balloon is theirs but claims it’s a ‘civilian research airship’

  • US was ready to shoot down spy balloon but decided against it – official

  • US calls Chinese balloon ‘clear violation of sovereignty’

Biden administration considering plan to shoot down balloon over Atlantic

18:37 , Gustaf Kilander

The Biden administration is considering a plan to shoot down the Chinese balloon over the Atlantic.

The balloon is suspected of conducting spying activities on the US military.

Four US officials have said the plan is to bring it down over the ocean to recover remnants of the balloon, the Associated Press reported.

Biden: US is ‘going to take care of’ Chinese spy balloon

17:35 , Gustaf Kilander

President Joe Biden said on Saturday that the US will “take care of” the Chinese spy balloon.

Mr Biden was answering a question from a reporter while getting into his car at an airfield in Syracuse, New York, where the president was visiting members of his family.

U.S. President Joe Biden answers a question from a reporter before getting into his vehicle after disembarking from Air Force One at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York, U.S., February 4, 2023. (REUTERS)
U.S. President Joe Biden answers a question from a reporter before getting into his vehicle after disembarking from Air Force One at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York, U.S., February 4, 2023. (REUTERS)

He was asked by CNN if the US would shoot down the balloon.

“We’re gonna take care of it,” the president said.

Mr Biden has been looking at options with military leaders since his initial briefing on the balloon on Tuesday.

Advisers have warned against shooting it down over land as debris may injure people or damage homes.

Spy balloon spotted over North Carolina, video shows

16:35 , Gustaf Kilander

The balloon was spotted above Ashville in western North Carolina on Saturday morning.

Resident Kim Hixson posted footage appearing to show the balloon at 8.48am on 4 February, CNN noted.

The balloon was seen later on Saturday floating further eastward, reaching Charlotte, footage from WSOC shows.

The suspected spy balloon is expected to continue on its path east and leave the continental US by Saturday.

On Friday night, it was projected that it would enter the sky over the Atlantic at the Outer Banks on North Carolina’s eastern shoreline.

China balloon: Many questions about suspected spy in the sky

15:35 , The Associated Press

The massive white orb drifting across U.S. airspace has triggered a diplomatic maelstrom and is blowing up on social media.

China insists the balloon is just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds and has only limited “self-steering” capabilities.

The United States says it is a Chinese spy balloon without a doubt. Its presence prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a weekend trip to China that was aimed at dialing down tensions that were already high between the countries.

The Pentagon says the balloon, which is carrying sensors and surveillance equipment, is maneuverable and has shown it can change course. It has loitered over sensitive areas of Montana where nuclear warheads are siloed, leading the military to take actions to prevent it from collecting intelligence.

A Pentagon spokesman said it could remain aloft over the U.S. for “a few days,” extending uncertainty about where it will go or if the U.S. will try to safely take it down. And late Friday, the Defense Department acknowledged reports of a balloon flying over Latin America — assessed as “another Chinese surveillance balloon.”

Everything we know about ‘Chinese spy balloon’ found hovering above northern US

14:35 , Graeme Massie

The US military is tracking a Chinese high-altitude spy balloon as it makes its way over the northern United States.

But the White House decided against shooting it out of the sky after being advised against it by defence officials, including Gen Mark Milley the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff.

A Pentagon official told a press briefing in Washington DC the suspected balloon had been spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday.

It had first flown over the Aleutian Islands, through Canada, and into Montana.

China has since confirmed ownership of the ballon, saying it is a civilian airship used for research purposes that was blown off course unexpectedly by strong winds.

This is everything we know so far about the spy balloon:

Everything we know about ‘Chinese spy balloon’ found hovering above northern US

Chinese social media mocks balloon incident

13:35 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Reactions on Chinese social media mirrored the official government stance that the US was hyping up the situation.

Many users made jokes about the balloon.

While some said that they could not control the balloon since the US had put restrictions on the technology that China is able to buy.

Others called it the “wandering balloon” in a pun that refers to the newly released Chinese sci-fi film called “The Wandering Earth 2.”

Some users also mocked the US’s defences for not being able to block a balloon.

Censorship was visible on the topic — the “wandering balloon” hashtag on Weibo was no longer searchable by Saturday evening, reported Associated Press.

ICYMI: Trump leads calls for Pentagon to shoot down the Chinese air balloon

13:05 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Donald Trump has called on the Pentagon to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon that Beijing says accidentally veered off course over the United States.

In a four word, all caps post on Truth Social on Friday morning, the former president wrote: “Shoot down the balloon.”

Bevan Hurley has more:

Trump leads calls for Pentagon to shoot down the Chinese air balloon over Montana

What does the Chinese spy balloon mean for US-China relations?

12:20 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has postponed his trip to China this weekend, with a high-altitude Chinese spy balloon currently making its way across the US.

The drama is the latest in a number of diplomatic spats between the two nations – so what happens now?

Chris Stevenson writes:

Politics Explained: What does the Chinese spy balloon mean for US-China relations?

ICYMI: Biden avoids questions on Chinese balloon

11:35 , Sravasti Dasgupta

President Joe Biden on Friday declined to answer questions about the detection of a Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana after delivering remarks on the addition of 517,000 new jobs to the US economy last month.

Read more:

Biden avoids questions on Chinese balloon as Blinken cancels trip

US considers new China sanctions amid spy balloon incident

11:15 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The US is considering new sanctions on Chinese surveillance companies over sales to Iran’s security forces, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The move comes amid heightened tensions over an alleged Chinese spy balloon over Montana.

The report said that US authorities are in advanced discussions on the sanctions and have zeroed in on Tiandy Technologies Co, an electrical equipment manufacturer based out of the Chinese city of Tianjin whose products have been sold to units of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Where is the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon now?

10:50 , Sravasti Dasgupta

US authorities say they are closely tracking a Chinese airship that was spotted flying over sensitive nuclear sites in Montana.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off a planned trip to Beijing this weekend as the diplomatic stand-off intensified.

Here’s what we know about the airship’s flight path:

Where is the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon now?

China plays down cancellation of Blinken trip

10:05 , Adam Withnall

China has played down the last-minute cancellation of a visit by US secretary of state Antony Blinken in the aftermath of the discovery of the Chinese balloon.

Mr Blinken had been due to visit Beijing tomorrow for the first major US-China talks since the countries’ leaders met last November in Indonesia.

But the US said Mr Blinken’s trip had been called off after the US said it had discovered the balloon suspected of conducting surveillance on US military sites.

China said on Saturday morning that neither side had ever actually formally announced Mr Blinken’s trip.

“In actuality, the US and China have never announced any visit, the US making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Mr Blinken, who had been due to depart Washington for Beijing late on Friday, said he had told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the US was “an irresponsible act and that (China’s) decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have”.

China has denied any claims of spying, and said it is a civilian-use balloon intended for meteorology research. Experts have said that their response was feasible.

ICYMI: US dismisses China’s claim Montana balloon is not a spy ship

09:00 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The US secretary of state Antony Blinken cancelled his first official visit to Beijing on Friday following the discovery of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over United States airspace, as Pentagon officials tracked the aircraft eastwards across the country.

Explaining his decision to cancel the visit, Mr Blinken described the balloon as “a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law”, and an “irresponsible act”.

Richard Hall, Andrew Feinberg report:

US says Montana balloon ‘a clear violation of sovereignty’ and dismisses China denial

Everything we know about ‘Chinese spy balloon’ found hovering above northern US

08:00 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The US military is tracking a Chinese high-altitude spy balloon as it makes its way over the northern United States.

This is everything we know so far about the spy balloon:

Everything we know about ‘Chinese spy balloon’ found hovering above northern US

Chinese 'spy balloon' spotted over US and the memes are out of this world

07:00 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The suspected Chinese spy balloon over US skies has shocked many Americans and set Twitter alight with memes and responses about the mysterious Chinese surveillance balloon.

Read more:

Chinese 'spy balloon' spotted over US and the memes are out of this world

Did the US Navy once shoot at Venus after mistaking it for a spy balloon?

06:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

As a suspected Chinese spy balloon frays tensions between China and the US, the US Navy said that it had experienced something similar decades ago - and did shoot at what they believed was a spy balloon.

However, they were actually shooting at planet Venus.

Did the US Navy once shoot at Venus after mistaking it for a spy balloon?

Defence officials debunk social media videos claiming balloon exploded

06:00 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Defence officials have denied that the suspected Chinese spy balloon has exploded or been shot down by the US military.

Fox News correspondent Jen Griffin reported that officials had said that the balloon over Montana has not exploded and was not shot down by the US military.

Videos purporting to show the balloon exploding are not real, officials said.

Earlier videos on social media claimed that the balloon had exploded.

“Ok, so here’s what I just caught I few minutes ago out my window. I saw a jet go by so fast and then explosion in the sky,” tweeted an user by the name Dolly Moore.

The user posted a photo and a video showing smoke in the sky and claimed it was from Billings Montana.

Spy balloons: What are they?

05:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The balloon is a piece of spying equipment carried by wind currents, usually equipped with radar and solar powered, typically operating at 80,000 - 120,000ft.

Due to its slower movement, the balloon is able to scan more territory than satellites.

Watch:

Spy balloons: What are they?

China says political trust with Russia has deepened

05:00 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Amid heightened tension between China and the US after the flight of a Chinese balloon over American airspace, Beijing says trust with ally Russia has only deepened.

China said that the political trust with Russia has continued to deepen after vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu visited the country this week and met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

The foreign ministry also said in its statement that China is willing to work with Russia to implement their strategic partnership and promote further progress in their relationship.

 (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
(SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Beijing says US using balloon incident to ‘smear’ China

04:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

China’s foreign ministry has accused American officials of using the balloon incident to smear China.

In a statement on Saturday the ministry said some US politicians and media had used the incident “as a pretext to smear” China, which was something Beijing “resolutely opposed,” reported South China Morning Post.

In a separate statement top diplomat Wang Yi said: “China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law. We do not accept any groundless speculation and hype.

“In the face of unexpected situations, what both parties need to do is to maintain concentration, communicate in a timely manner, avoid misjudgments, and manage and control differences.”

 (Chase Doak, Reuters)
(Chase Doak, Reuters)

US calls Montana balloon ‘a clear violation of sovereignty’

04:00 , Bevan Hurley

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled his first official visit to Beijing on Friday following the discovery of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over United States airspace, as Pentagon officials tracked the aircraft eastwards across the country.

In a flurry of briefings throughout the day, American diplomatic and military officials condemned the Chinese government while giving few details about the nature or location of the craft. Officials stressed that the balloon posed no danger to civilians on the ground.

Read Richard Hall’s full report below.

US says Montana balloon ‘a clear violation of sovereignty’ and dismisses China denial

Why doesn’t US military shoot down the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon?

03:30 , Bevan Hurley

The US military has said it does not currently plan to shoot down thealleged Chinese spy balloon as it does not pose a threat militarily or to civilians, but that targeting it could create a huge amount of potentially dangerous debris.

At the same time, it said it was monitoring the path of the balloon as it tracked eastwards across the US.

As Secretary of Sate Antony Blinken postponed a visit to Beijing amid a spike in tensions since the Pentagon revealed it was tracking the object, China has said it is a weather monitoring device and apologised.

On Friday, a senior military officer briefing the media in Washington DC was asked several times why the US had not shot it down, particularly given the US’s claim it is a spy balloon, and that this is not the first time such an incident had occurred.

Why doesn’t US military shoot down the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon?

The GOP’s latest fundraising pitch: Shoot down the China surveillance balloon

02:30 , Bevan Hurley

Republicans have a new fundraising pitch this cycle: shoot down the Chinese surveillance balloon.

President Joe Biden has kept mostly silent while his Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his trip to China after Beijing admitted it was responsible.

Republicans, for their part, have called for shooting down the balloon and said that its presence shows Biden’s weakness on China. But they are also raising money off it.

The National Republican Congressional Committee sent out an email with the subject line, “Shoot down the balloon, you coward!” according to Mother Jones

“We need you to sign our petition to tell Joe Biden: Shoot down the balloon, you coward!” the email reads. “We need all patriotic Americans to rise up and demand that President Biden take action right now and shoot down China’s spy balloon.”

Then, the email asks for money to help the GOP defend its House majority.

Read Eric Garcia’s full report.

The GOP’s latest fundraising pitch: Shoot down the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon

Biden avoids questions on Chinese balloon as Blinken cancels trip

01:30 , Bevan Hurley

President Joe Biden on Friday declined to answer questions about the detection of a Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana after delivering remarks on the addition of 517,000 new jobs to the US economy last month.

Speaking from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Mr Biden told reporters he wouldn’t answer questions about anything other than the Labor Department report because doing so would keep reporters from writing about the positive jobs numbers.

Mr Biden’s appearance at the White House came just minutes after it became known that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had postponed his planned trip to China following Beijing’s admission that it was responsible for a surveillance balloon which was spotted over Montana on Thursday.

The Independent’s Andrew Feinberg has the story.

Biden avoids questions on Chinese balloon as Blinken cancels trip

Second Chinese spy balloon spotted in skies over Latin America, says Pentagon

01:01 , Graeme Massie

The development comes as the original spy balloon continues to move east across the US.

Second Chinese spy balloon spotted over Latin America, says Pentagon

Pentagon says China balloon has ability to maneuver and ‘changed course’ as it moves east over US

00:30 , Bevan Hurley

Chinese surveillance balloon has “changed course” and will remain over United States airspace for the next few days, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The aircraft, which was spotted at high-altitude over the western US near sensitive military sites on Wednesday and has been tracked by the US military since then, has the ability to maneuver and is currently heading east, Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing.

“While we won’t get into specifics in regards to the exact location, I can tell you that the balloon continues to move eastward and is currently over the center of the continental United States,” he said. “We currently assess that the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time, and will continue to monitor and review options.”

Full report below.

Pentagon says China balloon has ‘changed course’ as it moves east over US airspace

Biden won’t let China’s ‘surveillance’ balloon burst his good news bubble

00:00 , Bevan Hurley

The Independent‘s chief Washington correspondent Eric Garcia writes:

“Much of Washington collectively shifted its attention toward the northern United States upon news that a “surveillance” balloon from China had entered US airspace.

“President Joe Biden largely avoided the subject despite the fact that his Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his trip to China over the issue. Understandably, the president likely did not want to divulge information about a national security issue.

“He also likely wanted to keep the focus on what he considered incredibly good news: the United States added 517,000 new jobs in January.”

Read Eric’s full story below.

Biden won’t let China’s ‘surveillance’ balloon burst his good news bubble

Could the China ‘spy’ balloon be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites

Friday 3 February 2023 23:30 , Bevan Hurley

A suspected Chinese spy ballon was traveling over a number of sensitive sites in the US, a defence official has said, triggering speculation its location and route could be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites.

Pentagon official told a press briefing in Washington DC the suspected balloon had been spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday.

It had first flown over the Aleutian Islands, through Canada, and into Montana.

The official said the balloon – which China confirmed responsibility for – was still over the US but declined to say where it is now, Reuters said. Officials said steps had been taken to “protect against the collection of sensitive information”.

Montana has long been the location for some of the US’s nuclear arsenal and is home to one of three known major nuclear missile silo fields. The other two are in Wyoming and North Dakota.

Could giant ‘Chinese spy balloon’ be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites?

Surveillance balloon heading towards North Carolina

Friday 3 February 2023 23:15 , Bevan Hurley

Washington Post weather analysts have mapped out a possible trajectory for the Chinese surveillance balloon.

According to the Capital Weather Gang Twitter account, the airship will be over St Louis, Missouri, tonight, and reach North Carolina by Saturday.

Montana Senator plans to hold hearings on Chinese surveillance balloon

Friday 3 February 2023 23:00 , Bevan Hurley

Jon Tester, the chair of the Defense Appropriations Committee, has announced plans to haul Biden Administration officials before a public hearing into the Chinese surveillance balloon.

“Montanas value their freedom and privacy and I’ll fight to defend both,” Mr Tester, a Democrat, said in a statement on Friday.

‘China’s aggressive behavior is a violation of international norms’

Friday 3 February 2023 22:42 , Bevan Hurley

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted on Friday: “There’s no way the CCP would allow a balloon like this to fly over the Chinese heartland.

“China’s aggressive behavior is a violation of international norms and shows a reckless disregard for the safety of American citizens.”

Could the China ‘spy’ balloon be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites

Friday 3 February 2023 22:30 , Bevan Hurley

A suspected Chinese spy ballon was traveling over a number of sensitive sites in the US, a defence official has said, triggering speculation its location and route could be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites.

Pentagon official told a press briefing in Washington DC the suspected balloon had been spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday.

It had first flown over the Aleutian Islands, through Canada, and into Montana.

The official said the balloon – which China confirmed responsibility for – was still over the US but declined to say where it is now, Reuters said. Officials said steps had been taken to “protect against the collection of sensitive information”.

Could giant ‘Chinese spy balloon’ be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites?

The GOP’s latest fundraising pitch: Shoot down the China surveillance balloon

Friday 3 February 2023 22:10 , Bevan Hurley

Republicans have a new fundraising pitch this cycle: shoot down the Chinese surveillance balloon.

President Joe Biden has kept mostly silent while his Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his trip to China after Beijing admitted it was responsible.

Republicans, for their part, have called for shooting down the balloon and said that its presence shows Biden’s weakness on China. But they are also raising money off it.

The National Republican Congressional Committee sent out an email with the subject line, “Shoot down the balloon, you coward!” according to Mother Jones

“We need you to sign our petition to tell Joe Biden: Shoot down the balloon, you coward!” the email reads. “We need all patriotic Americans to rise up and demand that President Biden take action right now and shoot down China’s spy balloon.”

Then, the email asks for money to help the GOP defend its House majority.

Read Eric Garcia’s full report.

The GOP’s latest fundraising pitch: Shoot down the China surveillance balloon

US calls Montana balloon ‘a clear violation of sovereignty’

Friday 3 February 2023 21:50 , Bevan Hurley

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled his first official visit to Beijing on Friday following the discovery of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over United States airspace, as Pentagon officials tracked the aircraft eastwards across the country.

In a flurry of briefings throughout the day, American diplomatic and military officials condemned the Chinese government while giving few details about the nature or location of the craft. Officials stressed that the balloon posed no danger to civilians on the ground.

The incident comes at a time of already-heightened tensions between the two countries, which Mr Blinken’s trip was supposed to address. Among the many points of contention are various trade disputes, the fate of Taiwan, and Chinese economic influence in the United States. The schedule for the visit included a meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping.

Read Richard Hall’s comprehensive roundup of the day’s events.

US says Montana balloon ‘a clear violation of sovereignty’ and dismisses China denial

Where is the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon now?

Friday 3 February 2023 21:30 , Bevan Hurley

At a press briefing at midday on Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the balloon was currently over the centre of the continental United States.

Pressed for further details, he refused to say precisely where the ballon was.

“The public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky and see where the balloon is.”

Where is the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon now?

More balloon sightings over St Louis

Friday 3 February 2023 21:25 , Bevan Hurley

Residents in St Louis, Missouri, have reported more possible sightings of a Chinese surveillance balloon.

Fox2 tweeted photos of the mysterious orb just after 4pm on Friday.

Pilots report possible sightings of Chinese surveillance balloon

Friday 3 February 2023 21:21 , Bevan Hurley

Potential sightings of a Chinese surveillance balloon have been reported by pilots flying at high altitudes over the US on Friday.

The crew of a private jet reported seeing a “derelict balloon adrift” in a notification to the Federal Aviation Administration at about 11.30am on Friday.

The Cessna Citation jet was flying at an altitude of 43,000 feet when it spotted the balloon about 20 miles north of Kansas City International Airport travelling at about 50,000 feet.

Don Jr: ‘Let the good people of Montana do their thing’

Friday 3 February 2023 21:15 , Bevan Hurley

Donald Trump Jr has offered his thoughts on the Chinese surveillance balloon that breached US airspace this week.

In a post on Truth Social on Friday, Don Jr called on Montanans to take matters into their own hands.

“If Joe Biden and his administration are too weak to do the obvious and shoot down an enemy surveillance balloon perhaps we just let the good people of Montana do their thing… I imagine they have the capability and the resolve to do it all themselves,” he said.

Blinken says ‘conditions were not conducive’ for Beijing trip

Friday 3 February 2023 21:00 , Bevan Hurley

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “conditions were not conducive” for a trip to Beijing that was cancelled after a Chinese surveillance balloon was detected over the US this week.

Speaking a few moments ago at a press briefing, Mr Blinken said he had spoken China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on Friday to say he was postponing the visit “in light of China’s unacceptable action”.

“In my call today with Director Wang Yi, I made clear that the presence of this surveillance balloon in US airspace is a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law, that it’s an irresponsible act and that the PRC is decision to take this action on the eve of my plan visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have,” Mr Blinken said.

“I told Director Wang that the United States remains committed to diplomatic engagement with China, and that I plan to visit Beijing when conditions allow.

“In the meantime, the United States will continue to maintain open lines of communication with China, including to address this ongoing incident. Indeed. That’s why we need direct and regular communications in the first place. And that’s why it’s critical that such lines remain open at all times to help avoid miscalculation and conflict.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (AP/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (AP/AFP)

Could the China ‘spy’ balloon be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites

Friday 3 February 2023 20:30 , Bevan Hurley

A suspected Chinese spy ballon was traveling over a number of sensitive sites in the US, a defence official has said, triggering speculation its location and route could be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites.

Pentagon official told a press briefing in Washington DC the suspected balloon had been spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday.

It had first flown over the Aleutian Islands, through Canada, and into Montana.

The official said the balloon – which China confirmed responsibility for – was still over the US but declined to say where it is now, Reuters said. Officials said steps had been taken to “protect against the collection of sensitive information”.

The Independent’s Andrew Buncombe has more details.

Could giant ‘Chinese spy balloon’ be linked to Montana’s nuclear missile sites?

Pentagon says China balloon has ability to maneuver and ‘changed course’

Friday 3 February 2023 20:20 , Bevan Hurley

Chinese surveillance balloon has “changed course” and will remain over United States airspace for the next few days, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The aircraft, which was spotted at high-altitude over the western US near sensitive military sites on Wednesday and has been tracked by the US military since then, has the ability to maneuver and is currently heading east, Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing.

“While we won’t get into specifics in regards to the exact location, I can tell you that the balloon continues to move eastward and is currently over the center of the continental United States,” he said.

The Independent’s Richard Hall has more details.

Pentagon says China balloon has ‘changed course’ as it moves east over US airspace

Chinese 'spy balloon' spotted over US and the memes are out of this world

Friday 3 February 2023 20:08 , Bevan Hurley

A high-altitude Chinese “spy” balloon set Twitter alight with memes and responses since its unsanctioned presence in US airspace was confirmed on Thursday.

Some compared the airborne mystery to budget airline Spirit, while others suggested the infamous Trump balloon could be sent skywards to defend the US heartland.

Indy 100 reporter Ariana Baio has the full story.

Chinese 'spy balloon' spotted over US and the memes are out of this world

Biden agreed that Blinken trip to Beijing should be postponed

Friday 3 February 2023 20:04 , Bevan Hurley

President Biden agreed that Secretary of State Antony Blinken should delay a planned trip to China after the discovery of an intelligence gathering balloon over the US, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday.

The president was briefed on the presence of the Chinese airship in US airspace on Tuesday, Ms Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to Reuters.

Officials were in agreement that Mr Blinken’s visit should not go ahead, she added.

Everything we know about ‘Chinese spy balloon’ found hovering above northern US

Friday 3 February 2023 19:50 , Bevan Hurley

The US military is tracking a Chinese high-altitude spy balloon as it makes its way over the northern United States.

But the White House decided against shooting it out of the sky after being advised against it by defence officials, including Gen Mark Milley the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff.

Here’s everything we know about the surveillance airship.

Everything we know about ‘Chinese spy balloon’ found hovering above northern US

Watch: Secretary of State Antony Blinken about to deliver remarks on ‘spy ballooon’

Friday 3 February 2023 19:32 , Bevan Hurley

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is speaking soon at a press conference with South Korean foreign minister Park Jin.

Mr Blinken cancelled a planned trip to Beijing this weekend over the Chinese “spy” balloon incident.

Live: Blinken meets with South Korean counterpart amid Chinese spy balloon incident

Balloon of unknown origin spotted over Missouri

Friday 3 February 2023 19:30 , Bevan Hurley

The National Weather Service says it has received several reports of a large balloon sightings over Missouri on Friday.

“We have had several reports across northwest (Missouri) of a large balloon visible on the horizon,” the NWS’s Kansas City office tweeted.

“It is now visible from our office in Pleasant Hill and the KC Metro. We have confirmed that it is not an NWS weather balloon.”

The Pentagon said the Chinese airship was travelling east over the central US at midday on Friday at an altitude of 60,000 feet.

Spokesperson Pat Ryder refused to provide a more precise location.

Billings Logan International Airport shut down for two hours on Wednesday

Friday 3 February 2023 19:10 , Bevan Hurley

A Chinese “spy” balloon forced the closure of the Billings Logan International Airport in Montana for two hours on Wednesday.

China claimed responsibility for the airship on Friday, but claims it is a meteorological balloon that strayed into US airspace by accident.

According to KULR8, the Billings airport was shut for about two hours and two flights had to be diverted.

Another flight was delayed from taking off.

The presence of the Chinese balloon impacted roughly 50 square miles of air space over Montana, Director of Aviation at Billings Logan Shane Ketterling told the news site.