China voiced regret Friday for an “unintentional” breach of US airspace by what it said was a civilian airship — but the Pentagon called a spy balloon — with a long-planned Beijing visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken hanging in the balance.
The Pentagon said Thursday it was tracking the balloon which flew far above the western state of Montana and decided for safety reasons not to shoot it down.
After initially hesitating to say that the object was Chinese, Beijing in a late-night statement admitted ownership, saying it was an airship that veered off course due to the winds.
“The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” said the statement attributed to a foreign ministry spokesperson.
“The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” it said, using the legal term for …