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U.S. tracking high-altitude balloon first spotted off Hawaii coast

U.S. tracked Chinese balloon for a week
U.S. tracked Chinese spy balloon for a week before it drifted across the country 05:33

The U.S. military is tracking a high-altitude balloon that was observed off the coast of Hawaii over the weekend, officials said Monday. The balloon's owner is unknown, but there were no indications it was maneuvering or being controlled by a foreign actor.

The balloon was detected and observed floating at approximately 36,000 feet above the Pacific on April 28. It did not directly pass over sensitive sites or defense critical infrastructure, according to U.S. officials. 

One official said the object did not pose a military or physical threat to people on the ground, nor did it pose a risk to civil aviation over Hawaii despite its altitude. NBC News first reported its detection earlier Monday. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed with the recommendation of his military commanders that no action need be taken against the object, but the U.S. military continues to track it, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a Defense Department spokesman.

The object is now out of Hawaii's airspace and not above U.S. territorial waters, an official said.

The balloon sighting comes months after a Chinese spy balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina after traversing the U.S., sparking a diplomatic confrontation that prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a planned trip to China. 

There were a number of other incidents involving mysterious flying objects around the same time. Three objects were shot down over the U.S. and Canada, but were never recovered. At the time, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. did not detect that any of the objects were sending communications signals before they were shot down. The U.S. also assessed that they showed no signs of self-propulsion or maneuvering and were not manned, he said. 

President Biden addressed the incidents on Feb. 16, saying the three unidentified objects were not believed to be part of China's expansive spy balloon program. 

Following the detection of those objects earlier this year, the Defense Department and FAA established new parameters for monitoring U.S. airspace, which led to the detection of the balloon over the weekend. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre referred questions about the latest balloon to the Defense Department during Monday's press briefing. 

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