Headline RoundupFebruary 3rd, 2023

Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Hovering Over Northern US

AllSides Summary

The U.S. military has reportedly been monitoring a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the northern U.S. for several days.

The Details: U.S. defense leaders have discussed shooting the high-altitude balloon out of the sky, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reportedly advised against that to protect people on the ground. The balloon was spotted over Montana on Wednesday, and tactical defense aircraft were reportedly scrambled from a nearby Air Force base in response. It was reportedly spotted over Kansas on Friday.

For Context: Montana is home to a nuclear-armed U.S. intercontinental-ballistic-missile base, a possible target of Chinese surveillance. Officials said similar balloons have been spotted in recent years, but this one has stayed longer than others. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is soon expected to travel to Beijing for a diplomatic follow-up on President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last year.

Key Quotes: Multiple sources quoted a senior U.S. defense official as saying, "Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective over and above what the [People's Republic of China] can do through other means," though it is flying over "a number of sensitive sites." A spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry said "China is a responsible country that always abides by international law and has no intention of infringing on any country’s territory and airspace."

How the Media Covered It: The news was covered prominently by sources across the political spectrum. 

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