Authorities tracking suspected Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace
Multiple military officials have warned of the potential for imminent Chinese military action in recent months.
Defense officials have been tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon through American airspace for the past several days, the Pentagon has confirmed.
The balloon travelled via the Aleutians into Canada before reentering U.S. territory and reaching Billings, Mont., according to NBC News. Authorities have not divulged its current location.
"The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely," said Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
"Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information," he went on.
A senior defense official communicated to the outlet that Washington was confident the balloon is of Chinese origin and confirmed that communications had occurred between Washington and Beijing over the matter.
Military leaders reportedly opted against shooting down the balloon due to concerns that falling debris might pose a safety risk, Reuters reported.
Though the U.S. government has concluded the balloon could provide little in the way of material intelligence to the communist regime, the aerial intrusion comes at a time of heightened tensions between the two world powers over numerous geopolitical struggles.
Multiple military officials have warned of the potential for imminent Chinese military action in recent months. Earlier this week, Air Mobility Command leader Gen. Mike Minihan predicted the U.S. and China would be at war in 2025.
"I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me [we'll] fight in 2025," he said in a memo to personnel.
In October of last year, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday suggested that China might make a play to take control of Taiwan in 2023.