US tracking Chinese spy balloon hovering over nuclear base
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Featured Image Credit: CNN/@ckdoak/Twitter
An unusual flying object has been spotted in the skies over the United States this week, and officials are pretty confident they know where it came from.
The object, which could at first be mistaken for the moon or even a star, was first seen flying over Alaska's Aleutian Islands before it appeared hovering over Billings, Montana this week.
Now, defence officials are almost certain that this object is a 'high-altitude surveillance balloon' owned by China.
Surveillance balloons are much cheaper to operate than other forms of spy tech, since they can be run without any personnel on board and can hang around in the skies for longer periods of time.
The state of Montana is home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, which holds one of the country's three missile silo fields, so officials are concerned that the supposed spyware could be collecting sensitive information.
Military leaders, including the US Defence Secretary, have already held a meeting to assess threat levels.
Initially, there were discussions about taking 'kinetic action' and preparing fighter jets in case the White House ordered for the object to be shot down, an anonymous official told the BBC.
But the government later decided against this action to prevent debris from falling and hitting civilians on the ground.
The official noted that, the surveillance balloon wasn't a threat to US intelligence because they could track 'exactly where this balloon is and exactly where it's passing over', and have determined that it wouldn't give China any more information than they've already collected using their satellites.
US officials weren't the only ones who spotted the 'sizeable' balloon hovering over Montana.
The object was hanging around for long enough that Montana residents noticed it too, and couldn't make head nor tail of it.
One such resident, who caught the object on camera, was Chase Doak, an office worker from Billings,
"I thought maybe it was a legitimate UFO," he told the Associated Press.
"So I wanted to make sure I documented it and took as many photos as I could."
In his video, Chase explains that the 'big white circle in the sky' had been hovering around at least for 'the last 35 minutes'.
He added: "For those of you who think it might be the moon, it's not the moon. The moon is off to my right, I can see it. This is significantly smaller than the moon."
US officials have raised concerns with Chinese officials at their embassies in both Washington DC and Beijing.
In response, Mao Ning, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, confirmed that officials in Beijing were working to verify reports and urged people to avoid 'making conjectures and hyping up the issue' before 'facts are clear' would 'not help to properly resolve' anything.