Chinese State Media Claims Spy Balloon Report Is a 'Conspiracy Theory'

Chinese state media claimed on Friday that a report about the suspected Chinese spy balloon detected over United States airspace is a "conspiracy theory."

"A conspiracy theory about a surveillance balloon over Montana, which is home to one of America's three domestic nuclear missile silo fields, has aroused wide attention in the US - even though the photo they took is unclear, and features no sign linking it to China," read the article published in China Daily.

The suspected balloon was found hovering over Montana, having made its way over Alaska's Aleutian Islands and Canada. U.S. officials on Thursday said that they were confident that the "high-altitude surveillance balloon" came from China.

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said in a press conference that the balloon is "well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground."

Chinese State Media Claims Spy Balloon Report-"conspiracy-theory"
Above, the Pentagon is seen from a flight taking off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on November 29, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. Chinese state media outlet "China Daily" claimed on Friday that a report about the suspected Chinese spy balloon detected over U.S. airspace is a "conspiracy theory." Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the balloon was a civilian "airship" used mainly for meteorological research, adding that winds blew the airship off its "planned" path.

"The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure," the ministry said in a statement.

The balloon has been reportedly hovering over U.S. airspace for a few days, but the Pentagon decided not to shoot it down, citing safety concerns for people on the ground. The balloon has been tracked by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

There were reported speculations that China might have been trying to observe the missile silos in Montana, which hosts the Malmstrom Air Force Base, one of just three U.S. Air Force bases that maintain and operate Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, China said that it had no intention of violating American airspace.

On Friday, China Daily writer Zhang Zhouxiang said that the shortest route between Beijing and Montana is over 9,000 kilometers, "which makes it impossible to precisely control the flight of this or any balloon." In addition, surveillance balloons used as military technology are outdated, reaching back to the 20th century, Zhouxiang wrote.

"Those fabricating the balloon lie are clearly attempting to portray China in two ways that are contradictory to each other, both ways of which lack support; they are so keen to describe China as an enemy that they give up all rationality in the process, exposing their ignorance and lack of common sense to the highest extent," read the China Daily article.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to visit China during the weekend in an effort to ease tensions between the U.S. and China that were often fueled by trade disputes and the stance toward Taiwan, but his visit has been postponed over the news of the balloon. The U.S. Secretary of State didn't want the issue of the balloon to be the center of discussion with Chinese officials, according to Reuters.

This Beijing visit would make Blinken the first U.S. secretary of state to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in around six years, according to the Financial Times.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.