This week, a Chinese airship was seen flying over sensitive nuclear sites in Montana, and US officials were keeping a close eye on it. On Saturday, the spy balloon was shot down off the coast of North and South Carolina.

Friday, Chinese officials expressed “regret” and said that the balloon was doing weather research and got blown off course by winds.

At a press briefing on Friday, a Pentagon official called the air balloon “a clear violation of US sovereignty” and laughed off China’s claims that it is not a spy ship.

As the diplomatic standoff got worse this weekend, Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled his trip to Beijing.

where is balloon now

At first, Republican lawmakers asked the Pentagon not to shoot down the “intelligence gathering” airship. Later, President Joe Biden said that the operation could go ahead on Saturday. Early Saturday afternoon, news came out that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had told three North and South Carolina airports to stay on the ground because a balloon was drifting through its airspace.

At the time, four US officials told the Associated Press that the plan was to bring it down over the ocean so that the balloon’s parts could be found.

Later on Saturday afternoon, President Joe Biden said, “I told the Pentagon to shoot it down as soon as possible on Wednesday.”

What we knew about where the airship was going

During a briefing on Thursday, a Pentagon official said that the balloon, which was about the size of three large buses, had been seen for the first time this week over the Aleutian Islands.

There are about 300 islands in the archipelago between Alaska and Russia. It is on the northern edge of the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.

where is balloon now

Officials say that the airship then flew over northern Canada at a height well above commercial air traffic. The balloon then went south and was seen in the sky over the city of Billings in Montana.

Ashley McGowan told CNN that she saw a bright white dot in the sky on Wednesday. She lives in Reed Point, which is about 60 miles west of Billings.

Ms. McGowan said that at first she thought it might be a UFO, a piece of space trash, or a comet. She said that US Air Force jets were “flying everywhere around the airship.”

Billings is about 200 miles southeast of Malmstrom Air Force Base, which is a 13,800-square-mile area where the US has 150 nuclear warheads.

Reports say that the Pentagon sent out fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the balloon if the White House told them to.

But at first, the White House decided not to escalate because they were worried that the debris could hurt or kill people on the ground.

Friday at noon, the Pentagon’s press secretary, Brigadier General Pat Ryder, told reporters that the balloon was over the middle of the United States.

When asked for more information, he wouldn’t say exactly where the balloon was. “Anyone can look up at the sky and see where the balloon is,” he said.

He said that it was heading east at a height of 60,000 feet and that the US was still keeping an eye on what it could do.

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