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Biden says US ‘going to take care of’ Chinese balloon: report

(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden said Saturday that officials are “going to take care” of a suspected Chinese “spy” balloon that’s been floating above the U.S. for days now, according to Reuters.

Reuters reports that the president did not elaborate on what was planned, though.

U.S. defense officials are continuing to track the balloon, which drifted over the Aleutian Islands off Alaska’s mainland, then over Canada, before going back over the United States again.

As the U.S. tracks this first high-altitude balloon spotted over U.S. airspace, another is “transiting Latin America,” according to the Pentagon.

“We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told NewsNation, adding Friday that he had no further information to provide on the other balloon at this time.

On Friday, the first balloon was spotted above Montana. Local news reports said on Saturday it had come to North Carolina. According to WSOC, the balloon flew over the Charlotte area just after 10 a.m.

China claims the balloon was just a weather research “airship” that was blown off course — but the Pentagon has rejected that. Defense officials say the balloon is, indeed, for surveillance.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was originally supposed to go to Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at reducing tensions between the United States and China. This was abruptly canceled, though, in light of the balloon.

China downplayed this cancellation in a statement Saturday morning.

“In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any visit, the U.S. making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

A defense official told the Associated Press that the balloon is the size of three buses. The federal government has not said where it is heading, or how it plans to bring the balloon down.

Some conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, have suggest shooting it down. However, President Joe Biden, on the advice of his defense team, chose not to do so because of the danger falling debris could pose to residents on the ground.

“Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collective collection perspective,” an official from the Department of Defense said in a statement. “But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.” 

However, retired Maj. Gen. Larry Stutzriem, director of research for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, made the case to NewsNation’s Leland Vittert that the alleged Chinese spy balloon is so close to land, it’s capturing much clearer images than a satellite ever could.

“There was a statement out of the Pentagon about, ‘Hey, the Chinese could get all this by satellite.’ Well, no. The satellites are up about 350 miles,” he said. “This thing’s around 12 miles, and so you can see cat whiskers from that balloon if it’s instrumented correctly.”

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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