China says Montana balloon is for meteorological research and blew off course


BEIJING (AP) — China’s Foreign Ministry said Friday that a balloon the U.S. suspects of conducting surveillance was a civilian “airship” used for research, mainly meteorological purposes.

Backdrop: China urges calm over reports of spy balloon flying in U.S. airspace

And: Pentagon says it is tracking suspected Chinese spy balloon over U.S.

The statement indicated that the airship has limited steering capability and “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds.

It said China regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace.

The Pentagon decided not to shoot down the balloon, which was potentially flying over sensitive sites, because of concerns of injuring or killing people on the ground.

The news came as Antony Blinken was expected this weekend to make his first trip to Beijing as U.S, secretary of state. The visit has not been formally announced, and it was not immediately clear whether the balloon’s discovery would affect his travel plans.

Read on: Taiwan activates defenses in response to Chinese incursions as U.S. general’s leaked memo warns of armed conflict with China by 2025

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