Pentagon Claims It’s Tracking a Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Over the US

The claim isn't confirmed and China has yet to respond

The Pentagon on Thursday claimed that it is tracking a spy balloon that has been spotted over the US for several days.

A senior Pentagon official told reporters that the US has “high confidence” the surveillance balloon belongs to China, but the claim hasn’t been confirmed, and Beijing has yet to respond to the accusation.

Like the US, China has sophisticated satellite capabilities that make deploying something like a spy balloon over US territory redundant, something the senior Pentagon official who spoke to reporters acknowledged.

“First, our best assessment at the moment is that whatever the surveillance payload is on this balloon, it does not create significant value added over and above what the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is likely able to collect through things like satellites in Low Earth Orbit,” the official said.

The Pentagon decided not to shoot the balloon down due to the risk of harming people on the ground. Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement that the balloon was “currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

Ryder claimed the US has tracked similar balloons in recent years. The senior Pentagon official said the balloon was over Montana at one point, a state that houses nuclear weapons silos.

The claim about the alleged Chinese spy balloon comes amid heightened tensions with Beijing and as Secretary of State Antony Blinken is preparing to visit China, where he is due to arrive on February 5. In recent weeks, the US has been announcing a series of steps it’s taking to increase its presence in the Asia Pacific as part of a military buildup aimed at China.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.