Friday, Chinese government officials said in a statement that a suspected Beijing-operated spy balloon lingering over the United States was a civilian airship intended for scientific research.
“The airship comes from China and is of a civilian nature, used for scientific research such as meteorology,” according to a Google translation of a statement on the foreign ministry’s website.
“Affected by the westerly wind and with limited self-control ability, the airship seriously deviated from the scheduled route,” it said.
“China regrets that the airship strayed into the United States due to force majeure. China will continue to maintain communication with the US to properly handle the unexpected situation,” it added.
Thursday, the United States was on high alert after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was seen hovering over Montana.
The Pentagon officials confirmed on Thursday that the balloon found its way to U.S. territory earlier this week. They believed the balloon traveled from China to the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. From there, it floated through northwest Canada before it lingered over Montana Wednesday.
President Biden explored options, including shooting down the object, but was asked by the Pentagon to hold off. Given the size of the object, shooting it out of the sky may cause damage when the large debris hits the ground. As of now, military officials continue to monitor the balloon but declined to reveal exactly where it was as of Thursday.
In the past, China has flown balloons over the U.S., but they have not stayed in the area for this long. The government has communicated with the Chinese government about the severity of the situation. This latest confrontation only adds to the growing tensions between the U.S. and China. Officials recently banned the Chinese-based social media app TikTok on government devices due to spy concerns. Adding insult to injury is the U.S. increasing military presence in the Philippines, further fueling the conflict.