China has rejected suggestions that it has been flying a high-altitude spy balloon over the western US and described the blimp as a civilian airship that strayed from its intended course due to bad weather.
The Pentagon on Thursday said a Chinese spy balloon entered US airspace this week and was flying over Montana, the state where one of the sensitive bases that houses American nuclear missiles is located.
But the Chinese foreign ministry on Friday said the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” that deviated from its planned course because of winds and “limited self-steering capability”
In an unusual statement that came as US secretary of state Antony Blinken was preparing to depart on a trip to China, Beijing said: “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.”
The ministry added that China would continue communicating with the US and “properly handle this unexpected situation”.