Chinese 'spy balloon' has been floating over America for three days

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A suspected Chinese spy balloon, the size of three buses, has been spotted floating across North America.

It has been hovering over states such as Montana for a number of days.

The Pentagon decided not to shoot it down due to risks of harm for people on the ground.

A senior defence official told reporters that the US has ‘very high confidence’ it is a Chinese high-altitude balloon and it was flying over sensitive sites to collect information.

One of the places it was spotted was Montana, which is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

Brig Gen Patrick Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, later provided a brief statement on the balloon, saying the government continues to track the balloon.

He said it is ‘currently travelling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground’.

He said the US has ‘engaged’ Chinese officials through multiple channels and communicated the seriousness of the matter.

The Pentagon announcement comes days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China.

It is not clear if this will affect his travel plans, which the State Department has not formally announced.

This morning, Canada confirmed a potential second sighting of the suspected surveillance device.

What is a spy balloon?

The balloon is a large surveillance balloon with a technology bay, and is roughly the size of three buses. 

It is not believed to be obtaining any intelligence that could not be gathered by satellites.

Previous balloon incursions have remained for a much shorter duration over the continental United States.

The balloon is flying at a high altitude in the stratosphere and does not pose a safety risk to commercial aircraft due to its extreme height

In a statement, the country’s national defence organisation said: ‘A high-altitude surveillance balloon was detected and its movements are being actively tracked by [North American Aerospace Defense Command] NORAD.

‘Canadians are safe and Canada is taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including the monitoring of a potential second incident.’

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