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Chinese spy 'balloon' hovering over US nuclear installations

All flights at Montana's Billings Logan International Airport were stopped from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm on Wednesday (local time) and fighter jets were scrambled to shoot down the balloon the moment order came from the White House.

Biden, a pious Catholic who wouldn't say boo to a goose, wanted the intimidating Chinese surveillance "balloon" to be shot down immediately but the military prevailed upon him that the debris will be damaging for life and property on the ground.

And, the "balloon" stays over the Malmstrom nuclear silos.

WASHINGTON, Feb 3: China has stationed a spy craft over US skies in the north-western region where its nuclear installations are located, the Pentagon has said.

According to reports the Chinese "balloon" has been spotted above Montana and other places since Wednesday. Montano is one of the three US nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force base. There are 150 warheads located at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

All flights were stopped at Montana's Billings Logan International Airport from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm on Wednesday (local time) pending a decsion on the action to be taken. And fighter jets like F-22s were kept ready to shoot down the balloon if Biden ordered.

Although President Joe Biden wanted the surveillance "balloon" that has been spotted since a few days to be taken down, the defence establishment said it has not taken any action as it would endanger life and property on the ground. Biden accepted the military's advice.

The matter has been brought to the notice of the Chinese through multilevel channels. Chinese spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing was "verifying" the situation.

The Pentagon said the craft was flying far above aviation routes. Pentagon press secretary Brig Gen Patrick Ryder said in a statement that the Government tracking the balloon "currently traveling (80,000-120,000 feet) at an altitude well above commercial air traffic (35,000-40,000 feet) and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground." Steps have been taken to ensure it did not collect sensitive information, he did not elaborate.

Other Pentagon officials told reporters that it is a Chinese high-altitude balloon flying over sensitive sites to collect information.

Biden had sought the military's options when briefed and accepted the advice of Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen Mark Milley, who is also chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, against taking "kinetic action" as it would be risky for the people on the ground.

It was also sighted in Canada before entering the US.

The Defence Secretary currently on a visit of Philippines.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to make his first trip to Beijing by weekend. No decision has been taken to review the travel plan in view of the new development.

Spy balloons have flown over the US several times in the past but they were briefly sighted.

US-China tensions in relationships are currently high over Taiwan and the South China Sea issues.

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