Multiple eyewitness reports from people in Montana say they saw the Chinese high-altitude balloon hover in place on Thursday.
The U.S. government released a statement Friday afternoon that officials consider the balloon’s entry into Northern America “intentional.”
Friday, the Pentagon issued a statement that the balloon is expected to remain over U.S. airspace “for a few days,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman.
The balloon was drifting at an altitude of 60,000 feet “somewhere over the center” of the country and was seen over Montana, home to some of the United States’ nuclear missile silos.
The Billings Logan International airport airspace was closed down for several hours Wednesday afternoon, according to assistant Director of Aviation and Transit Shane Ketterling.
“The Salt Lake City FAA tower shut down 50 square miles of air space over the Livingston area fly zone, but it was later reopened without incident,” Ketterling said.
The Biden administration has indefinitely postponed Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing after determining that U.S. sovereignty was violated by what it identified as the Chinese reconnaissance balloon being spotted and tracked above the continental U.S., the State Department said Friday.
The craft, which appears to have high-tech satellite technology, including satellite panels, crossed Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and Canada. The Pentagon scrambled jets and, at one point, considered shooting down the balloon but decided against it. It’s unclear if the balloon poses more of a threat than flying debris if it is shot down.