Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, press secretary at the Department of Defense, issued a statement Thursday informing the public that the U.S. government has observed a high-altitude surveillance balloon in the airspace over the continental U.S.
The government, including North American Aerospace Defense Command, is closely monitoring the balloon, which Ryder said does not pose a physical or military threat to civilians on the ground.
The press secretary noted that this is not the first time such an activity has been tracked and that the government “acted immediately” to prevent the collection of sensitive information.
A senior defense official said the U.S. intelligence community believes the surveillance balloon belongs to China and that the government has communicated with Chinese officials to discuss the matter via multiple channels, according to DOD News.
Putting out the balloon through the use of kinetic force, the official noted, might put civilians at risk.
“Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collective collection perspective,” the official said. “But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.”