(MSN) The US government is monitoring a suspected surveillance balloon from China that has been spotted in recent days flying over sites containing important security information.
Defense officials said they are almost certain that the “high altitude surveillance balloon” belongs to China. The object was recently spotted flying over the state of Montana.
The military decided not to bring it down to avoid falling debris.
China’s government has said that no speculation should be made on the matter until the facts are established.
On Friday (3/2), the government of Canada said it is monitoring “a possible second incident” involving a surveillance balloon, but did not say which country might be behind it.
The government said in the statement that it is working closely with the US to “protect Canada’s classified information from foreign intelligence threats.”
The object flew over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and part of Canada until it arrived in the town of Billings, Montana, on Wednesday (1/2), officials said.
A senior defense official said on condition of anonymity that the government already has fighter jets on standby – including F-22s – in case the White House orders the object to be shot down.
Top U.S. military leaders – such as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, commander of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff – met Wednesday to assess the threat.
Montana, a sparsely populated state, is home to one of only three nuclear missile fields in the country, at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Officials said the object appeared to be flying over sites with security information to collect data.
But they did not recommend any kind of attack against the balloon because of the danger of the debris falling on inhabited places.
The Defense official said there was no “significant threat” of compromising U.S. intelligence data because U.S. officials “know exactly where this balloon is and exactly where it is passing.”
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