BEIJING (AP) — China said Friday it was looking into reports that a Chinese spy balloon has been flying in U.S. airspace over sensitive sites — a discovery that further strained already tense relations between Beijing and Washington.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China has “no intention of violating the territory and airspace of any sovereign country” and urged calm while the facts are established.
The reports came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to make his first trip to Beijing this weekend. The visit has not been formally announced, and it was not immediately clear if the balloon's discovery would affect his travel plans. Mao said she had no information on it.
Blinken would be the highest-ranking member of President Joe Biden’s administration to visit China, on a mission to mitigate a sharp downturn in relations between the countries amid trade disputes and concerns about Beijing's increasingly aggressive stance toward Taiwan and in the South China Sea.
A senior American defense official told Pentagon reporters Thursday that the U.S. has “very high confidence” that the object spotted over U.S. airspace in recent days was a Chinese high-altitude balloon and that it was flying over sensitive sites to collect information. One of the places the balloon was spotted was Montana, which is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
The Pentagon decided not to shoot it down because of concerns of hurting people on the ground. The defense official said the U.S. has assessed that the balloon has “limited” value in terms of providing intelligence that couldn’t be obtained by other technologies, such as spy satellites.
It was not clear what will happen with the balloon if it isn’t brought down.
Mao said China was working to understand the situation in the hopes "that both sides can handle this together calmly and carefully."
“China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international laws, and China has no intention of violating the territory and airspace of any sovereign country," she said.
A day earlier, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said similar balloon activity has been seen in the past several years and the government has taken steps to ensure no sensitive information was stolen.
He said the balloon was traveling well above the height commercial aircraft fly at and didn't present a threat to people on the ground.
Biden was briefed and asked the military to present options, according to a senior administration official, who was also not authorized to publicly discuss sensitive information. The senior defense official said the U.S. prepared fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the balloon if ordered.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advised against taking “kinetic action” because of risks to the safety of people on the ground. Biden accepted that recommendation.
Even though the balloon was over a sparsely populated area of Montana, its size would create a debris field large enough that it could have put people at risk.
The defense official would not specify the size of the balloon but said commercial pilots could spot it from their cockpits.
The surveillance balloon was first reported by NBC News.
A photograph of a large white balloon lingering over the area was captured by The Billings Gazette. The balloon could be seen drifting in and out of clouds and had what appeared to be a solar array hanging from the bottom, said Gazette photographer Larry Mayer.
The balloon's appearance adds to national security concerns among American lawmakers over China's influence in the U.S., ranging from the prevalence of the hugely popular smartphone app TikTok to purchases of American farmland.
“China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed,” Republican Party House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted.
Tensions with China are particularly high on numerous issues, ranging from Taiwan and the South China Sea to human rights in China’s western Xinjiang region and the clampdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong. Not least on that list of irritants are China’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its refusal to rein in North Korea’s expanding ballistic missile program and ongoing disputes over trade and technology.
On Tuesday, Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations by 34 Chinese military aircraft and nine warships that are part Beijing’s strategy to unsettle and intimidate the self-governing island democracy.
Twenty of those aircraft crossed the central line in the Taiwan Strait that has long been an unofficial buffer zone between the two sides, which separated during a civil war in 1949.
Beijing has also increased preparations for a potential blockade or military action against Taiwan, which has stirred increasing concern among military leaders, diplomats and elected officials in the U.S., Taiwan’s key ally.
Copp and Baldor reported from Washington. Associated Press news assistant Caroline Chen in Beijing and writers Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller in Washington, D.C., and Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, contributed to this report.
Her study looked at not just the storms but the problems that back-to-back hurricanes caused to people. In both situations, the frequency of back-to-back storms increased dramatically from current expectations. The study looked heavily at the impacts of storms more than just the storms themselves. But Lin said it’s just the nastier nature and size that increases the likelihood of back-to-back storms hitting roughly the same area. Some, including Corbosiero, say it is hard to say for sure that the back-to-back trend is already happening.26 days ago Fremont Tribune
But most experts have seen no indication of mass deaths or famine in North Korea. It’s unclear whether North Korea will take any significant steps to address food shortages. But North Korea rarely comes up with such measures,” said Nam Sung-wook, a professor at Korea University in South Korea. North Korea needs about 5.5 million tons of grain to feed its 25 million people annually, so it’s short about 1 million tons this year. Efforts by North Korean authorities to tighten controls and restrict market activities have also worsened the situation, he said.26 days ago Fremont Tribune
“Dilbert” creator Scott Adams experienced possibly the biggest repercussion of recent racist comments when a major comics syndicator, which also operates the GoComics website, announced Sunday it would no longer work with the cartoonist. Andrews McMeel Universal said in a statement that the syndication company was “severing" their relationship with Adams. In a YouTube episode released Monday, Scott Adams said that new “Dilbert” strips will only be available on his subscription service on the Locals platform. Adams, who is white, repeatedly referred to people who are Black as members of a “hate group” or a “racist hate group” and said he would no longer “help Black Americans." "But you should also avoid any group that doesn’t respect you, even if there are people within the group who are fine,” Adams said.26 days ago Fremont Tribune
They’re more likely to occur from May through August, particularly during periods of high heat — making the December derecho so uncommon. A 2009 storm dubbed a Super Derecho by the National Weather Service traveled from western Kansas to eastern Kentucky. A 2003 derecho traveled from Arkansas through several southern states, including Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The weather service said a progressive derecho is fueled by a hot and moist environment with relatively strong winds aloft. They sweep across an area both long and wide, driven by the presence of very strong winds in the atmosphere.26 days ago Fremont Tribune
Speed around a French village in the video game Gran Turismo and you might spot a Corvette behind you trying to catch your slipstream. But in some instances, they are also trying to learn how to get smarter in the real world. “It’s probably not going to be one big breakthrough and that everything is going to be shifted to the real world,” Volz said. Japanese electronics giant Sony launched its own AI research division in 2020 with entertainment in mind, but it's nonetheless attracted broader academic attention. Peter Wurman, director of Sony AI America and project lead on GT Sophy, said it takes about two weeks for AI agents to train on 20 PlayStations.26 days ago Fremont Tribune
Instead, Universal Pictures' “Cocaine Bear” rampaged through multiplexes, scoring notably above expectations. Made for about $35 million and directed by Elizabeth Banks, “Cocaine Bear” stirred up plenty of buzz just from its title and its made-to-go-viral trailer. "Snakes on a Plane," a movie many compared to “Cocaine Bear,” opened with $13.9 million in 2006. In just about the epitome of counterprogramming to “Cocaine Bear,” Lionsgate's “Jesus Revolution” also debuted strongly. “Cocaine Bear,” $23.1 million.26 days ago Fremont Tribune
The SAG Awards, often an Oscar preview, threw some curve balls into the Oscars race in a ceremony streamed live on Netflix's YouTube page from Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles. “This is not just for me," said Yeoh, the first Asian actress to win the SAG Award for female lead. He's also the first Asian to win best male supporting actor at the SAG Awards. The SAG Awards are considered one of the most reliable Oscar bellwethers. After the SAG Awards, presented by the film and television acting guild SAG-AFTRA, lost their broadcast home at TNT/TBS, Netflix signed on to stream Sunday's ceremony.26 days ago Fremont Tribune
FONTANA, Calif. — Most of NASCAR's Cup Series drivers feel like they're saying their final goodbye to a dear old friend this weekend. Fontana won't host a NASCAR weekend in 2024, and the new setup might not be ready until 2026 — if it happens at all. "And here's the part that makes me feel a little better about it: Yes, the racing here is spectacular. No problemGiven their familiarity with this circuit, the drivers aren't concerned after the weather kept them off the track Saturday. "It would be a different question if this was last year and we had a brand-new racing car."27 days ago Fremont Tribune