[Central News Agency] The U.S. Department of Defense today refuted China's claim that a Chinese civilian scientific research unmanned airship strayed into the United States, saying, "We know that this is a reconnaissance balloon," violating U.S. airspace and violating international law. "This is unacceptable."

The U.S. Department of Defense discovered on the evening of the 2nd that a Chinese high-altitude balloon entered the U.S. airspace and was suspected of collecting sensitive information. The outside world is highly concerned.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs later admitted that the balloon came from China, but claimed that it was of a civilian nature and was used for scientific research such as meteorology. It was seriously deviated from the planned route due to the impact of the westerly winds, and "expressed regret" that the balloon entered the United States due to force majeure.

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US Defense Department spokesman Pat Ryder refuted China's claims.

He said in a routine briefing today that he was aware of China's statement, but "the fact is, we know it's a surveillance balloon, and I can't be more specific." The balloon did violate U.S. airspace and violated international law. "This is unacceptable." The U.S. has expressed this directly to the Chinese side at multiple levels.

As for the exact location of the balloon, Ryder said that the balloon is currently in the central part of the United States, moving eastward, and is expected to stay in U.S. airspace for several days, and the U.S. side is continuously monitoring it.

The altitude of the balloon is about 60,000 feet, which is much higher than the altitude of civil aviation traffic. It is maneuverable and can change the course.

Given that it poses no human or military threat, it is not currently intended to be shot down, but options will continue to be evaluated.

The presence of a Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace has added to tensions in U.S.-China relations.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned visit to China from February 5 to 6 was also affected by the incident and was postponed earlier today.

(Editor: Xu Ruicheng) 1120204