April 24, 2024
U.S. officials say a massive surveillance balloon believed to be from China and first seen above Montana is being tracked as it flies over the continental United States.

“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement on Thursday. “NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely.”

China’s foreign ministry has claimed it is a civilian balloon used for meteorological purposes, but U.S. politicians, many on the right, are already demanding President Joe Biden shoot it down.

The Federal Aviation Administration has closed airspace in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. All operations at Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Wilmington airports have been paused for national security initiatives.

The alerts are in effect until 2:45 p.m.

The balloon was spotted Saturday over parts of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Northern Greenville county in South Carolina.

President Joe Biden on Saturday made his first public comments on the Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the continental U.S.

Biden, who is traveling to New York, was asked by a reporter if there were plans to shoot the balloon down.

“We’re going to take care of it,” he responded.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Friday with Wang Yi, the former foreign minister who has recently been elevated as China’s highest ranking foreign affairs official within the party.

Xinhua News Agency posted a very brief readout of Blinken’s phone call to his direct counterpart Wang Yi which appears to have taken place before Blinken postponed his trip to China.

Wang Yi said that China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law and the two sides need to maintain their determination, communicate and avoid misjudgment.

The readout does not address the postponement of Blinken’s trip because the Chinese government maintains that the trip was never officially announced.

“As a matter of fact, neither China nor the U.S. has announced any visits,” China said previously when addressing Blinken’s postponed trip. “It is the U.S.’s own business to release relevant information, and we respect that.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry posted a new statement in a form of a Q&A on their website early Saturday and slammed those taking advantage of the massive surveillance balloon.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his upcoming trip to China, but the ministry claimed the visit had never been announced.

“As a matter of fact, neither China nor the US has announced any visits. It is the US’s own business to release relevant information, and we respect that,” the statement read.

They also reiterated their denial that the surveillance balloon was being used to spy on the U.S., insisting that China has always abided by international law and that the balloon deviated from its scheduled route.

“This was completely an accident caused by force majeure, and the facts are very clear,” the statement continued.

The United States, elected officials and the media were also accused by the ministry of taking advantage of the incident.

“Some politicians and media in the United States took advantage of the issue to attack and discredit China. China firmly opposes it,” the statement read.

-ABC News’ Karson Yiu and Britt Clennett


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