(breitbart) – Former President Donald Trump is calling for the Chinese spy balloon floating over the United States to be shot down.
“SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!” Trump posted on Truth Social Friday morning, after the Pentagon confirmed Thursday evening that a Chinese spy balloon had been floating over the U.S. for several days.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement Thursday:
The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic, and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
A senior defense official told reporters during a briefing, “We are confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the [People’s Republic of China].”
The official said President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation and had asked for military options, but that “it was the strong recommendation by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. [Mark] Milley and the commander of NORTHCOM, Gen. Glen VanHerck, not to take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of the people on the ground from the possible debris field.”
“Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective. But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information. We are also tracking what abilities it could have in gaining insights, and continue to monitor the balloon as it is over the continental United States,” the senior defense official said.
The official said the military was looking at whether there was an option on Wednesday to shoot it down over sparsely populated areas in Montana, but that “we just couldn’t buy down the risk enough to feel comfortable recommending shooting it down yesterday.”
The official declined to say exactly when the Department of Defense began tracking it but said, “we have been tracking it for some time” and confirmed that its current flight path will “carry it over a number of sensitive sites.”
The official said the DOD’s best assessment is that the balloon does not provide “significant value added” over what China is “likely able to collect through things like satellites in Low Earth Orbit.”
“But out of an abundance of caution, we have taken additional mitigation steps,” the official added. “I’m not going to go into what those are. But we know exactly where this balloon is, exactly what it is passing over. And we are taking steps to be extra vigilant so that we can mitigate any foreign intelligence risk.”
The official added that the DOD has observed this happen a “handful” of other times over the past few years, but that it is “appearing to hang out for a long people of time this time around, more persistent than in previous instances.”
The official said the DOD has engaged Chinese officials “with urgency through multiple channels.”
“We have communicated to them the seriousness with which we take this issue. But beyond that I’m not going to go into the content of the — of the message. But we have made clear we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our homeland. And so if the risk profile that I described earlier, if that changes we will have options to deal with this balloon,” the official said.
The official confirmed that the DOD sent F-22s and other assets to observe the balloon.