Days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Sunday, Communist China President Xi Jinping disrespected Blinken and Brandon by sending a giant spy balloon over the Northwest United States this week where it was spotted by a civilian on Wednesday and caused the Billings airport to shut down for several hours.
Photo from KSVI-TV shows a massive Chinese spy balloon over Montana. The U.S. military is tracking it pic.twitter.com/BWUBERWO1J
— BNO News Live (@BNODesk) February 2, 2023
Video shot Wednesday by Montana resident John Martin:
Any clue as to what this is in the sky? It’s moved a little bit in the past 40 minutes, but it was just as bright in daylight hours. pic.twitter.com/sNRnJSfJ7G
— John Martin (@MartinInMontana) February 2, 2023
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Martin followed-up by noting the Billing airport was shut down for about two hours Wednesday:
Not joking: It was a UFO Flights at Billings Logan International Airport temporarily grounded Wednesday as many noticed an unidentified object in the sky https://t.co/VtJmCMzf0n
— John Martin (@MartinInMontana) February 2, 2023
ABC News reported the balloon has a large “technology bay” (excerpt):
A senior defense official said they “are confident” the balloon was sent by the Chinese government — and this incident isn’t the first one.
“Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to 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 a technology bay.
President Brandon has been briefed about the balloon and “asked for military options,” the defense official said. Brandon is following the recommendation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and U.S. Northern Command Gen. Glen D. VanHerck to not “take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field.”
“Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective. But we are taking steps nevertheless to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information,” the defense official said.
The Washington Post reported an official saying the balloon has been tracked from Alaskan waters, “The Pentagon initially observed the balloon soaring above Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and then over Canada before it crossed into Montana, another U.S. official said. It was not clear from where the balloon was launched initially.”
A meteorologist searched and found the likely trajectory of the balloon, tracing it back to China:
#DOD says high altitude balloon over Montana yesterday was a spy balloon from #China. I did a quick run of the #NOAA HYSPLIT model to trace backwards the path of an object. Using 14K meters over Montana yesterday I get the following – Yup Central China!https://t.co/FHiG79f4th pic.twitter.com/DeZLjjkPei
— Dan Satterfield (@wildweatherdan) February 2, 2023
U.S. military jets are now reported circling the balloon.
BREAKING: Three US air force planes are circulating over northern Montana where a suspected China balloon has been spotted #Montana #BreakingNews #Breaking pic.twitter.com/le7kGklIvt
— Breaking News Video (@BreakingVideoHQ) February 2, 2023
White House reporter Simon Ateba points out the ramifications of China’s action, “BREAKING: Pentagon says China sent spy balloon over Montana, home to one of the most sensitive U.S. military installations, which oversees Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles to gather intelligence, days before Blinken’s Beijing trip. Your reaction.”
BREAKING: Pentagon says China sent spy balloon over Montana, home to one of the most sensitive U.S. military installations, which oversees Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles to gather intelligence, days before Blinken’s Beijing trip. Your reaction. pic.twitter.com/Q66sujS44x
— Simon Ateba (@simonateba) February 2, 2023
Two years ago Chinses diplomats insulted Blinken with a dressing down at their first meeting which took place March 2021 in Alaska.
The Financial Times reported Thursday on the trip (before the balloon was reported) (excerpt):
Antony Blinken is expected to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing, making him the first US secretary of state to sit down with the Chinese leader in nearly six years and the first of President Brandon’s cabinet secretaries to visit China.
…But Blinken’s trip to Beijing comes as relations between the two powers remain mired in their worst state since the US and China established diplomatic relations in 1979. Tensions rose in August when China held large-scale military exercises in response to then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan.
Underscoring the tensions, a top Air Force general recently said the US and China would probably go to war over Taiwan in 2025, in a leaked memo the Pentagon quickly dismissed as not reflecting the view of the Brandon administration. The memo highlighted the growing concern in Washington about China. The Republican-led House of Representatives recently created a new committee that will focus exclusively on China.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called on Blinken to cancel his trip.
Secretary Blinken should cancel his trip to China.
And President Brandon must answer why he has not secured U.S. airspace.https://t.co/PqwFLCpVhN
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 2, 2023