Pilots are reporting sightings of the suspected Chinese balloon
From CNN's Pete Muntean
Pilots flying at high altitudes have spotted the suspected Chinese spy balloon as it drifts over the central United States.
“Derelict balloon adrift,” noted the crew of a Cessna Citation private jet in a weather report, which came into the Federal Aviation Administration around 11:30 a.m. ET.
The pilot of the flight, which was at 43,000 feet, said the balloon was 20 miles north of Kansas City International Airport at about 50,000 feet. The publicly-available pilot weather observation is known as a Pilot Report or PIREP.
A source familiar with the situation tells CNN that other pilots are reporting seeing the balloon to air traffic controllers.
2:58 p.m. ET, February 3, 2023
Biden was first briefed Tuesday on suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, White House says
From CNN's DJ Judd, Betsy Klein, Phil Mattingly, Natasha Bertrand, Alex Marquardt and MJ Lee
President Joe Biden was first briefed Tuesday on the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that is hovering over the US as it moves eastward in the coming days, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The president has since "continued to receive regular briefings and updates from the National Security Team," she said.
Jean-Pierre described how the decision-making process worked, saying that after being briefed, Biden asked "the military to present options—it was the strong recommendation by Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, the commander of Northern Command not to take kinetic action because of the risk to safety and security of the people on the ground."
"President Biden took that recommendation of the military seriously —of his advisers, clearly. The President will always put the security and security of the American people first," Jean-Pierre added.
Briefings to Congress: Congress has been briefed on China’s “surveillance balloon activities” in the past, the official said, including a briefing for “key committees” that took place last August, a White House official told CNN.
Staff members for the top Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence committee were briefed Thursday afternoon, and the official added that Department of Defense and State Department officials briefed leadership staff and national security staff on Friday. The administration has “also provided additional detail in writing.”
There are also efforts to brief lawmakers behind closed doors next week when Congress returns. “We are working on additional classified briefings for Congress next week,” the official said.
Jean-Pierre also said Friday Biden “agreed” with Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s decision “that it was not appropriate to travel to the People's Republic of China at this time,” acknowledging that while China has issued a “statement of regret... the presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law and it is unacceptable.”
Officials decided to postpone Blinken's visit to China after high-level conversations between Blinken, President Joe Biden and other top national security officials, according to people familiar with the matter.
2:20 p.m. ET, February 3, 2023
National Weather Service tweets photos of large balloon over Kansas City
From CNN's Chris Boyette
The National Weather Service in Kansas City tweeted images of what it says is a large balloon in the Kansas City area and suburb of Pleasant Hill as a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon moves eastward over the US.
The weather service said it could see the balloon from its office and added that it is not one of its own weather balloons.
CNN has reached out to the NWS and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas for more details.
1:25 p.m. ET, February 3, 2023
UN says it is incumbent on China and US "to do whatever they can to lower tensions"
From CNN’s Richard Roth and Sabrina Souza
United Nations Secretary-General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday during a press briefing that the UN is concerned “whenever there are heightened tensions between China and the US.”
Dujarric was asked about UN Secretary-General António Guterres' thoughts on the postponement of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China.
“On this particular incident, obviously the two will have to navigate it. But given the global leadership position of both countries, I think it is incumbent on them to do whatever they can to lower tensions,” Dujarric said.
1:10 p.m. ET, February 3, 2023
Suspected spy balloon-related ground stop in Montana diverted some flights on Wednesday
From CNN's Pete Muntean
A suspected Chinese spy balloon currently above the US resulted in an hours-long grounding of commercial flights in a swath of airspace at least 200 miles long, according to a new statement from the Billings, Montana, airport and a source familiar with the situation.
“On Wednesday, Feb. 1, a Ground Stop was issued that stretched from Helena to Billings and it lasted approximately two hours from around 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.,” said Billings Logan International Airport's Assistant Director of Aviation and Transit Shane Ketterling. “Since the Ground Stop was lifted, there have not been any more issues or delays.”
A source familiar with the situation told CNN that the ground stop was for Department of Defense activity.
During a briefing with reporters Thursday, a senior defense official said “we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area” in case the military decided to shoot down the balloon.
The Federal Aviation Administration, whose control over airspace ends at 60,000 feet above sea level, declined to comment.
On Friday, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said during a briefing that the balloon is assessed to be at about 60,000 feet above the ground.
The Billings airport said the flight impacts were minimal because of what time it happened.
“The Ground Stop happened mid-afternoon when Billings Logan International Airport has very few flights. A total of three flights experienced delays; two inbound flights were diverted and arrived in Billings late, and an outbound United Airlines flight was also delayed,” the statement said.
3:28 p.m. ET, February 3, 2023
Suspected surveillance balloon is maneuverable, according to Pentagon press secretary
From CNN's Haley Britzky
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said on Friday that the US Defense Department knows the suspected surveillance balloon floating over the northern US “has the ability to maneuver.”
“The balloon is maneuverable, clearly it's violated US air space, and again we’ve communicated that fact to the [People’s Republic of China],” Ryder said.
The spokesperson did not indicate any details on how it can be maneuvered.
Ryder said the balloon is assessed to be at about 60,000 feet above the ground.
Sources familiar with the matter previously told CNN that the balloon’s movement relies primarily on the jet stream. Ryder added on Friday that the balloon “has changed its course which, again, is why we’re monitoring it.”
Chinese officials said on Friday that the balloon is a “civilian airship” used for research that “deviated far from its planned course.”
12:38 p.m. ET, February 3, 2023
Pentagon: Chinese "surveillance" balloon violates US airspace and is "unacceptable"
"We know that balloon has violated US airspace and international law — which is unacceptable. And we've conveyed this directly to the PRC on multiple levels," he told reporters Friday.
The Pentagon rejected China's claims that the balloon that entered the US was a "civilian airship" for research that deviated from course.
"The fact is, we know that it's a surveillance balloon, and I'm not going to be able to be more specific than that," he said, noting the information is classified.
12:33 p.m. ET, February 3, 2023
Pentagon believes balloon would create "significant" debris field and potentially hurt people if shot down
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder explained why officials have assessed it would be dangerous to shoot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over the continental United States.
"In terms of the size, I'm not able to get into the specifics other than to say that it is big enough that, again, in reviewing our approach, we do recognize that any potential debris field would be significant and potentially cause civilian injuries or deaths, or significant property damage," Ryder told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon.
"This is part of the calculus in terms of our overall assessment, but again, we'll continue to monitor it, we'll continue to review our options, and keep you updated as able."
12:28 p.m. ET, February 3, 2023
Suspected Chinese spy balloon expected to be over the US "for a few days," Pentagon says
The suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon is expected to remain above the US for a couple days, according to Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
"Right now, we assess that it will probably be over the United States for a few days. But we'll continue to monitor and review our options and keep you updated as we can," he said at a press briefing.