Beijing has warned against speculation and efforts to hype up the issue
China is a responsible nation and doesn't violate the airspace of other countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning has said following speculation that a spy balloon spotted over the US had been sent by Beijing.
The Chinese authorities are aware of reports of a surveillance balloon being discovered over American territory and are currently working to verify them, Mao stated during a briefing on Friday.
"Speculation and hype are not conducive until the facts are clear," the spokeswoman said, as quoted by Chinese broadcaster CGTN. She expressed hope that the relevant parties would be able to resolve the issue in a "cool-headed way."
However, Mao insisted that "China is a responsible country. We act in accordance with international law. We have no intention of violating other countries' airspace."
On Thursday, the Pentagon claimed to have discovered a spy balloon over the northern US during the previous day. The last confirmed sighting of the object was in Billings, Montana, while its current location remains disclosed.
In comments cited by the US media, an unnamed senior US defense official said Washington was "confident" that the balloon belonged to China as similar incidents had already occurred in the past few years.
The same official claimed that the flight path of the balloon had crossed "a number of sensitive sites," but added that the craft had "limited additive value" from the perspective of intelligence gathering.
The US authorities considered shooting down the balloon, but decided against it due to concerns that people on the ground could be hurt by falling debris, the source added.
According to reports, the balloon made it to the US through Canadian territory. Canada's defense department said it had been taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including monitoring for "a potential second incident."
READ MORE: Chinese spy fridges are making the new Cold War even chillier
The balloon incursion comes just days before a planned trip to Beijing by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Mao declined to comment when asked whether the development would affect the visit in any way.