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Business News/ News / World/  UFO or Chinese spy? US officials baffled by unidentified ‘balloon’, says, ‘it doesn't...’
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UFO or Chinese spy? US officials baffled by unidentified ‘balloon’, says, ‘it doesn't...’

A small balloon was spotted flying over the western United States prompting NORAD to send fighter pilots for investigation.

FILE - In this image provided by the Department of Defense, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, a U.S. Air Force U-2 pilot looks down at a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovers over the United States on Feb. 3, 2023. A small and nonthreatening balloon spotted flying high over the mountainous Western United States was intercepted by fighter jets over Utah, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. (Department of Defense via AP, File) (AP)Premium
FILE - In this image provided by the Department of Defense, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, a U.S. Air Force U-2 pilot looks down at a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovers over the United States on Feb. 3, 2023. A small and nonthreatening balloon spotted flying high over the mountainous Western United States was intercepted by fighter jets over Utah, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. (Department of Defense via AP, File) (AP)

A small balloon was seen flying over the western United States on Friday, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command(NORAD).

As reported by the Associated Press, citing NORAD spokesperson John Cornelio, NORAD sent fighter pilots to probe and noted that it "did not pose any threat to the national security".

However, there has been an increase in attention drawn to sightings of balloons traversing the United States following the military's interception and destruction of a Chinese surveillance balloon that traversed a significant portion of the nation last year.

Also Read: Chinese spy balloon used American internet provider: US

Moreover, authorities have clarified that the balloon intercepted on Friday was not dispatched by a foreign adversary and does not present a danger to aviation or national security.

However, NORAD remained silent on the origin or purpose of the balloon observed flying over Utah and Colorado.

Earlier this year, American authorities destroyed a sizable, white surveillance balloon from China off the South Carolina coast. The Pentagon asserted that this balloon was a component of an extensive surveillance initiative that China had been undertaking for "several years."

China responded that it reserved the right to “take further actions" and criticized the US for “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice."

Moreover, the presence of the Chinese surveillance balloon became a significant diplomatic issue between the United States and China, leading Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a planned visit to Beijing in February 2023.

Blinken later undertook the trip in June in an attempt to alleviate escalating tensions, which encompassed various concerns such as the balloon incident and China's increasingly assertive behaviour in the South China Sea.

Also Read: Cold War II: America’s emulation of Chinese policy could reset their relations

“NORAD is continuing to work in close coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration to track and monitor the balloon detected at an altitude of about 44,000 feet (13,400 meters)," Cornelio said.

AP further reported that the initial reports indicating military tracking of a balloon over the Western United States prompted some apprehension among lawmakers, including US Senator Jon Tester and US Representative Matt Rosendale from Montana, who stated that their offices were monitoring its trajectory.

Earlier in June, BBC found many images of Chinese spy balloons crossing East Asia under its analysis of huge amounts of data captured by satellites. The analysis was carried out in collaboration with Synthetic, an artificial intelligence firm.

Synthetic founder, Corey Jaskolski, found evidence of one balloon crossing northern Japan in early September 2021. These images have not been published before, reported BBC.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published: 24 Feb 2024, 07:22 AM IST
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