Beijing confirmed on Friday that a high-altitude balloon traveling over the northern U.S. is Chinese and said its entry into American airspace was unintentional.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the balloon is a civilian airship used primarily for meteorological research.
“Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course,” the spokesperson said. “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.”
U.S. defense officials confirmed the presence of the balloon on Thursday, identifying it as a “high-altitude surveillance balloon” and noting that they were fairly confident it belonged to China.
The balloon, which was first spotted over Montana on Wednesday, is still hovering over the U.S., as officials have held off on shooting it down over safety concerns.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning initially said on Friday that they were looking into the reports and noted that Beijing “has no intention of violating the territory and airspace of any sovereign country.”