China looking into spy balloon over U.S.; Canada monitoring ‘potential second incident’

In a brief statement late Thursday, the Canadian Department of National Defence said a high-altitude surveillance balloon had been detected and was being “actively tracked” by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a U.S.-Canadian military organization. It did not provide details about the balloon or say whether it was the same balloon detected in the U.S.

“Canadians are safe and Canada is taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including the monitoring of a potential second incident,” it said, without elaborating.

The statement, which did not mention China, added that Canadian intelligence agencies were working with U.S. partners to protect against “foreign intelligence threats.”

The department did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails requesting additional information.

The senior defense official said Thursday the balloon was still over the U.S. but declined to say where. It has not been shot out of the sky so far, U.S. officials said, because falling debris could pose a safety risk to people on the ground. They said the balloon was of limited use in collecting intelligence and did not pose a threat to civil aviation.

Chinese experts raised questions about the origin of the balloon in an article Friday in The Global Times, a state-backed nationalist tabloid. Liu Ming, head of the science and technology intelligence company MizarVision, said that images released by U.S. officials appeared to show a balloon that was incapable of traveling such long distances or with such precision.

Military expert Zhang Xuefeng told the newspaper that the U.S. would not necessarily be able to identify the balloon’s country of origin while it was still in the sky, and that it was pointless for China to use balloons to spy on the continental U.S. when it has a much more effective satellite network.

“It is recommended that the United States shoot down the balloon and find some clues before blaming other countries,” Zhang said.

Isaac Lee, Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee contributed.

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