UPDATE: The US has downed the Chinese balloon off the Carolina coast and an operation is underway to recover the debris
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: The government has been keeping tabs on a Chinese surveillance balloon that has been suspended in the northern U.S. sky for several days, NBC News reported.
There have been talks of shooting it down.
On Wednesday, the balloon was sighted in Billings, Montana, having traveled from the Aleutian Islands, passing through Canada and landing in Montana, the report said.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told NBC News. “Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information. We continue to track and monitor it closely.”
A top defense official confirmed that the balloon remains over the U.S. but refrained from disclosing its current location.
“Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective over and above what the PRC can do through other means,” a senior defense official reportedly said. “Nevertheless we are taking all necessary steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.” The official said the balloon does not pose a threat to civil aviation because of its altitude.
Such balloons can track moving ground targets by intercepting electronic signals and communications.
This is a breaking news story.