China claims ownership of ‘balloon’ spotted in US airspace; rejects Washington’s spy claim

China US balloon
Image courtesy: news.cgtn

Beijing: China on Friday claimed ownership of the unmanned airship that was spotted in United States airspace, saying that it was a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes.

In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed the balloon was an airship from China but rejected the spy claim, adding that it deviated from its planned course after being affected by westerlies and due to its limited self-steering capability.

China regretted the “unintended entry” of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.

The statement further stated that the Chinese side would continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this “unexpected situation”.

The object had flown over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and through Canada before appearing over the city of Billings in Montana on Wednesday, according to officials.

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Montana is home to some of the US’s nuclear missile silos. The US decided not to shoot down the balloon because of the danger posed by falling debris, and the limited use of any intelligence the device could gather, a US defence official said.