An obvious question arises as the United States and Canada keep an eye on a suspicious Chinese surveillance balloon in the sky over the northern United States: why hasn’t it been shot down yet?
The route of the balloon takes it over a “number of sensitive sites” in the United States, according to officials. Montana, home to underground US military intercontinental ballistic missile silos, has been spotted with a balloon the size of three buses.
Defence officials have said that the United States Northern Command is working with NASA to map out the fallout zone in the event that the balloon is shot down.
However, officials have concluded that the risk of falling debris is greater than the risk of the balloon itself, as the balloon is not expected to bring in any more intelligence than China’s existing fleet of low-Earth-orbit spy satellites.
To put it simply, why not just shoot it down? On Thursday, a high-ranking defence official remarked, “We have to calculate the risk-reward here.” So the first thing to ask is whether or not it represents a physical, kinetic threat to people in the United States. In our opinion, it does not.
Could it endanger commercial air travel? In our opinion, it does not. Do you think it’s a serious threat to our intelligence? At this time, we believe that it does not. Given that profile, we conclude that the risk of downing it is not justified, even if the likelihood of the debris falling and injuring someone or damaging property is low in a sparsely populated area.
Friday, a US official told, “This isn’t like Top Gun, where it just bursts and doesn’t go anywhere. It’s big, it’s metal, and it might kill hundreds of people in the United States.
Vice President Joe Biden was updated on the balloon’s whereabouts and asked his military advisors for recommendations. In addition, while some thought was given to bringing the balloon down over Montana, the advice was decided not to do so. On Thursday, a government official indicated that measures were taken “immediately” by the Biden administration to prevent the acquisition of secret information.
However, if the risk it poses increases in the future, it might be shot down. On Thursday, a senior defence official stated that the United States has “options to deal with this balloon.”
We’ve let them (Chinese officials) know how seriously we take this matter. The official stated, “But we have made plain that we would do whatever is required to preserve our people and our territory.”
Government officials in China said the balloon was a “civilian airship utilised for research, particularly meteorological objectives” that “deviated significantly from its original trajectory.”
According to two US officials, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled his planned trip to China in light of the balloon observation. In a significant new development in the escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing, the meeting has been postponed.
An American official claimed that similar occurrences involving Chinese surveillance balloons had occurred over Guam and Hawaii in the past few years. A senior defence official stated Thursday, “Instances of this conduct have been noticed over the previous few years, even prior to this administration.”