Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the location of airports where ground stops had been ordered on Saturday afternoon.
(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden said Saturday that officials are “going to take care” of a suspected Chinese “spy” balloon that’s been floating above the U.S. for days now.
Biden didn’t go into detail. But four U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press the Biden administration is considering a plan to shoot down the balloon by bringing it down once it is above the Atlantic Ocean where the remnants could potentially be recovered.
The officials said, however, that it is unclear whether Biden had made a final decision on this.
U.S. defense officials are continuing to track the balloon, which drifted over the Aleutian Islands off Alaska’s mainland, then over Canada, before going back over the United States again.
As the U.S. continues to track the high-altitude balloon over U.S. airspace, another is “transiting Latin America,” according to the Pentagon.
“We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told NewsNation, adding Friday that he had no further information to provide on the other balloon at this time.
On Friday, the first balloon crossed above Montana. Local news reports said on Saturday it had come to North Carolina. That afternoon, a ground stop had been ordered in three airports — one in North Carolina and two in South Carolina, per the Federal Aviation Administration.
China claims the balloon is just a weather research “airship” that was blown off course — but the Pentagon has rejected that notion. Defense officials say the balloon is, indeed, for surveillance.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was originally supposed to go to Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at reducing tensions between the United States and China. This was abruptly canceled, though, in light of the balloon.
China downplayed this cancellation in a statement Saturday morning.
“In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any visit, the U.S. making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
A defense official told the Associated Press that the balloon is the size of three buses. The federal government has not said where it is heading, or how it plans to bring the balloon down.
Some conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, have suggest shooting it down. However, Biden, on the advice of his defense team, has previously chosen not to do so because of the danger falling debris could pose to residents on the ground.
“Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collective collection perspective,” an official from the Department of Defense said in a statement. “But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.”
However, retired Maj. Gen. Larry Stutzriem, director of research for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, made the case to NewsNation’s Leland Vittert that the alleged Chinese spy balloon is so close to land, it’s capturing much clearer images than a satellite ever could.
“There was a statement out of the Pentagon about, ‘Hey, the Chinese could get all this by satellite.’ Well, no. The satellites are up about 350 miles,” he said. “This thing’s around 12 miles, and so you can see cat whiskers from that balloon if it’s instrumented correctly.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.