report – New York Daily News

A spy balloon operated by the Chinese government is reportedly being tracked over Montana.

The “high-altitude surveillance” airship has been floating over the northern United States for days, NBC News reports. U.S. aircraft including F-22 Raptors were recently deployed to approach the balloon.

Officials reportedly discussed shooting the blimp out of the sky, though it’s unclear if fighter jets would have been tasked with that assignment. There was concern a balloon crashing to the ground would harm civilians.

The airship is flying at too high an altitude to be of concern to passenger planes, though a “special military mission” caused a temporary ground stop at a Billings, Mont., airport Wednesday, NBC reported.

Chinese officials have been contacted, according to the report, but it’s not clear if they’re claiming the balloon. U.S. authorities are “confident” the flying object belongs to China. It entered U.S. air space through Canada.

“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 told NBC.

The Pentagon said Thursday it would expand U.S. military presence in the Philippines as relations between China and Taiwan intensify. Taiwan scrambled fighter military jets Wednesday in response to large-scale Chinese military operations near the independent democratic island. China considers Taiwan a breakaway territory.

Head of Air Mobility Command Gen. Mike Minihan wrote in a memo last month the U.S. and China are on a collision course over tensions in southeast Asia.

“My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” Minihan said.

President Biden said during his May visit to Tokyo the U.S. has a “commitment” to Taiwan. The U.S. calls its formal policy on Taiwan “strategic ambiguity.”

With News Wire Services

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