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China has stated that the balloon belonged to them but alleged that it was a weather balloon, rather than a surveillance balloon.

Once the balloon was detected, we acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information” (US Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, 3 Feb. 2023) https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3288103/general-says-chinese-surveillance-balloon-now-over-center-of-us/

During WWII, Imperial Japan deployed incendiary balloon weapons against the United States: “Between November 1944 and April 1945, the Imperial Japanese Army launched about 9,300 balloons from sites on Honshu, of which about 300 were found or observed in the U.S. and Canada, with some in Mexico”.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fu-Go_balloon_bomb

US shoots down suspected Chinese spy balloon over Atlantic Ocean Balloon was downed over the North Carolina coast, with the goal of recovering the remnants before they sink into the ocean” by Julian Borger Sat 4 Feb 2023 20.09 GMT https://www.theguardian.comUS warplanes have shot down a Chinese high-altitude balloon over the Atlantic Ocean

Earlier, Joe Biden told reporters that “we’re going to take care of it,” and the president was reported to have given the order for it to be shot down over the ocean, after several days flying at 60,000 feet over the US.

The US military had warned that a shoot-down over land could risk casualties on the ground. An aviation exclusion area was declared off the North Carolina coast before fighter jets were launched. US officials told US reporters the balloon had been shot down within the 12-mile limit of US territorial waters. A salvage operation was reported to be under way to recover fragments of the destroyed aircraft.” [1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/04/us-may-shoot-down-suspected-chinese-spy-balloon-officials-say
Excerpts from the Guardian, Open Licence: “Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd”. Read the article here: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/04/chinese-spy-balloon-shot-down-us https://support.theguardian.com/int/contribute

On Friday:
General Says Chinese Surveillance Balloon Now Over Center of U.S.” Feb. 3, 2023 | By David Vergun, DOD News “As of noon today, the maneuverable Chinese surveillance balloon, which was over Montana yesterday, was at an altitude of about 60,000 feet and floating over the center of the continental United States in an easterly direction, posing no risk to commercial aviation, military assets or people on the ground, said the Pentagon press secretary. 

The North American Aerospace Defense Command is continuing to monitor and leaders are reviewing options, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, who held a media briefing today. 

“The balloon has violated U.S. airspace and international law, which is unacceptable,” he said, adding that the U.S. has communicated that to Chinese leaders at multiple levels. 

The balloon is carrying surveillance gear as well as a payload, Ryder said, not elaborating about the payload. 

A reason not to shoot it down at this point, he said, is that besides not posing a threat to people or aircraft, the resulting debris from a strike of this large balloon could be harmful to people on the ground and result in property damage. 

The balloon most likely will continue floating over the U.S. for the next few days and updates will be provided as needed, he said. 

“Once the balloon was detected, we acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” he added.https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3288103/general-says-chinese-surveillance-balloon-now-over-center-of-us/

US Senate Armed Services Ranking Member:
Armed Services Ranking Member: Pentagon Needs To Offer “Full And Accurate Accounting” Of Incursion To Congress, American People
FEBRUARY 2, 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, today released the following statement in response to press reports regarding a high-altitude Chinese spy balloon found over the continental United States:

“The Department of Defense owes Congress and the American people a full and accurate accounting of why U.S. forces did not take proactive measures to address this airspace incursion by the People’s Republic of China,” Wicker said. “Information strongly suggests the Department failed to act with urgency in responding to this airspace incursion by a high-altitude surveillance balloon.  No incursion should be ignored, and should be dealt with appropriately.” Permalink: https://www.wicker.senate.gov/2023/2/wicker-statement-on-chinese-spy-balloon-in-u-s-airspace

BREAKING: Chinese spy balloon causes FAA to pause flights at 3 airports”: https://youtu.be/2-rS2M-YizA