China acknowledged Friday that a high-altitude balloon spotted this week over Montana does in fact belong to Beijing, but it referred to the airship as a civilian device "used for scientific research such as meteorology." A senior defense official told CBS News on Thursday that the Defense Department was "confident" that it was, in fact, a Chinese surveillance balloon.
According to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry, the airship was "affected by the westerly wind" and its ability to control its direction "is limited." The statement also says that the balloon "seriously deviated from the scheduled route" and expressed regret that "the airship strayed into the United States due to force majeure."
By Friday morning, the balloon was no longer over Montana but has moved over the Midwest, according to a U.S. official. It's not going to run out of fuel, since it has solar panels. The official also said that the balloon steers by rudder and is corkscrewing around to slow its progress over land, but the jet stream continues to move it on a trajectory across the U.S. The Pentagon is still considering ways to "dispose" of it but has "grave concerns" about the damage it would cause if it fell to earth.