< p class="sc-v64krj-0 dlqbmr">The Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia (File photo)
The Pentagon said on Thursday it was tracking the movements of a Chinese spy balloon flying high over US territory and sensitive military sites, saying it posed no direct threat. .
At the request of President Joe Biden, the Pentagon considered shooting him down, but the decision was made not to because of the risks posed debris for people on the ground, a senior US defense official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
We have no doubt that the ball is from China, he said.
We are taking steps to protect ourselves against the collection of Sensitive information, he further said, while emphasizing the limited added information-gathering value of the craft described as a balloon with fairly large dimensions.
We considered it large enough for the debris to cause damage, if it was shot in a populated area, according to the same source.< /p>
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said the Colorado-based United States and Canadian Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was monitoring the path of the balloon.< /p>
The balloon is currently flying at an altitude well above commercial air traffic. It poses no military or physical threat to people on the ground, he said in a statement.
Clearly, this balloon is intended for surveillance and its current trajectory takes it over sensitive sites, including airbases and strategic missile silos, the first US official said, referring to the state of the country. Montana, in the western United States.
The balloon entered US airspace several days ago, but US intelligence was already monitoring it, the same source said, adding that it was not the first time the U.S. military has witnessed such an intrusion.
But this time the balloon stayed in United States airspace much longer.
Updated , the American president immediately asked his Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was in the Philippines on Wednesday, to provide him with options. The latter then held discussions with the chiefs of staff of the Pentagon.
Fighter jets approached the craft over Montana, according to the same source.
The incident comes days before a trip of the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken to China to try to ease tensions with the Asian giant.
Among the many contentious issues are Taiwan, which China claims as an integral part of its territory, and China's activities in Southeast Asia.
In the Philippines, Lloyd Austin has signed agreements aimed at strengthening the American military presence there in the face of the rise of China.
Washington has raised the balloon incident with Chinese authorities.
We have communicated the seriousness of the incident to them, the US official said, adding that we have told them clear that we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people in our territory.