Days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to arrive in Beijing on Sunday, Communist Chinese President Xi Jinping snubbed Blinken and Joe Biden by sending a giant spy balloon over the northwestern United States this week, where it was spotted by a civilian on Wednesday and caused an airstrike. Port of Billings to close for several hours.
A photo from KSVI-TV shows a massive Chinese spy balloon over Montana. The US military is following him pic.twitter.com/BWUBERWO1J
— BNO News Live (@BNODesk) February 2, 2023
Video taken Wednesday by Montana resident John Martin:
Do you have any clue as to what this is in the sky? It has moved a bit in the past 40 minutes, but was just as bright during the day. pic.twitter.com/sNRnJSfJ7G
— John Martin (@MartinInMontana) February 2, 2023
TRENDY: The Pentagon refuses to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that has been hovering over Montana for days
Martin followed up by noting that the Billings airport was closed for about two hours on Wednesday:
No joke: It was a UFO flight at Billings Logan International Airport that was temporarily grounded Wednesday as many spotted an unidentified object in the sky https://t.co/VtJmCMzf0n
— John Martin (@MartinInMontana) February 2, 2023
ABC News reported that the balloon has a large “tech space” (excerpt):
A senior defense official said they were “confident” the balloon was sent by the Chinese government – and this incident is not the first.
“Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including before this administration,” the official said.
Earlier Thursday, a senior U.S. official described the balloon to ABC News as the size of three buses, with technological space.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the balloon and was “looking at military options,” a defense official said. Biden is following the recommendation of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and US Northern Command Gen. Glen D. VanHerck not to “take kinetic action because of the risk to the safety and protection of people on the ground from a possible debris field.”
“We currently assess that this balloon has limited added value from an intelligence gathering perspective. But we are nevertheless taking steps to protect ourselves from foreign intelligence gathering of sensitive information,” the defense official said.
The Washington Post reported that the official said the balloon was tracked from Alaskan waters, “The Pentagon first spotted the balloon flying over the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and then over Canada before crossing into Montana, another US official said. It was not clear where the balloon was initially launched from.”
A meteorologist searched and found the likely trajectory of the balloon, following it to China:
#ADD says yesterday’s high altitude balloon over Montana was a spy balloon from #China. I flew over quickly #NOAA HYSPLIT model for tracing the trajectory of an object backwards. Using 14K meters over Montana yesterday I get the following – Yes, Central China!https://t.co/FHiG79f4th pic.twitter.com/DeZLjjkPei
— Dan Satterfield (@wildweatherdan) February 2, 2023
US military jets are now circling the balloon.
THE LATEST: Three US Air Force planes are circling over northern Montana where an alleged Chinese balloon has been spotted #Montana #Breaking news #Breaking pic.twitter.com/le7kGklIvt
— Breaking News Video (@BreakingVideoHQ) February 2, 2023
White House Press Secretary Simon Ateba points to the fallout from China’s action, “BREAKING: Pentagon says China sent spy balloon over Montana, home to one of US military’s most sensitive installations, which monitors Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles for intelligence gathering, days before Blinken’s Trip to Peking. Your reaction.”
BREAKING: The Pentagon says China sent a spy balloon over Montana, home to one of the U.S. military’s most sensitive installations, which monitors Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles to gather intelligence, days before Blinken’s trip to Beijing. Your reaction. pic.twitter.com/Q66sujS44x
— Simon Ateba (@simonstheba) February 2, 2023
Two years ago, Chinses diplomats insulted Blinken by cross-dressing at their first meeting held in March 2021 in Alaska.
The Financial Times reported on the trip on Thursday (before the bubble was announced) (excerpt):
Antony Blinken is expected to meet with Xi Jinping in Beijing, making him the first US secretary of state to sit down with a Chinese leader in nearly six years and the first secretary of President Joe Biden’s cabinet to visit China.
…But Blinken’s trip to Beijing comes at a time when relations between the two powers are at their worst since the US and China established diplomatic relations in 1979. Tensions rose in August when China held major military exercises in response to then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan.
Underscoring the tensions, a top Air Force general recently said the US and China would likely go to war over Taiwan in 2025, in a leaked memo that the Pentagon quickly dismissed as not reflecting the Biden administration’s view. The memo highlighted Washington’s growing concerns about China. The Republican-led House of Representatives recently established a new committee to focus exclusively on China.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) urged Blinken to cancel his trip.
Secretary Blinken should cancel his trip to China.
And President Biden must answer why he did not secure American airspace.https://t.co/PqwFLCpVhN
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 2, 2023