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US tracking large Chinese spy balloon flying across the country, officials say

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(WASHINGTON) — A massive spy balloon from China is flying over the continental U.S., government officials said Thursday.

“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters. “NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely.”

A senior defense official said they “are confident” the balloon was sent by the Chinese government — and this incident isn’t the first one.

“Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration,” the official said.

Earlier Thursday, a senior U.S. official described the balloon to ABC News as the size of three buses, with a technology bay.

President Joe Biden has been briefed about the balloon and “asked for military options,” the defense official said. Biden is following the recommendation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and U.S. Northern Command Gen. Glen D. VanHerck to not “take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field.”

“Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective. But we are taking steps nevertheless to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information,” the defense official said.

The balloon was seen over Montana earlier Thursday, they said.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that there was a ground stop in Billings, Montana, on Wednesday but an agency spokesperson did not share more details.

ABC News’ Amanda Maile contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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