CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The suspected Chinese spy balloon that has hovered over the U.S. this week could be seen passing by near Charlotte on Saturday, alarming, as well as piquing the curiosity, of onlookers across the Carolinas.
The balloon was spotted over Charlotte shortly before 10 a.m. Saturday and its trajectory was eastward, straight across the Carolinas.
The FAA issued a ground stop until at least 2:45 p.m. Saturday across the Carolina coastline in preparation to shoot down the balloon, which officials said is suspected of spying on U.S. military. The airports affected included airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and in Wilmington, North Carolina.
The York County Sheriff’s Office posted Saturday morning encouraging onlookers not to shoot at the mysterious object, projected to be about 60,000-plus feet away. Around 8:30 a.m., viewers reported seeing the balloon flying over Asheville, which lines up with previous projections.
Gastonia Police said that if you see the object flying above, do not shoot at it.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to visit Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at reducing U.S.-China tensions, the first such high-profile trip after the countries’ leaders met last November in Indonesia. The U.S. abruptly canceled the trip after the discovery of the huge balloon despite China’s claim that it was merely a weather research “airship” that had blown off course.
The Pentagon says the balloon, which is carrying sensors and surveillance equipment, is maneuverable and has shown it can change course. It has loitered over sensitive areas of Montana where nuclear warheads are siloed, leading the military to take actions to prevent it from collecting intelligence.
A Pentagon spokesman said it could remain aloft over the U.S. for “a few days,” extending uncertainty about where it will go or if the U.S. will try to safely take it down. And late Friday, the Defense Department acknowledged reports of a balloon flying over Latin America — assessed as “another Chinese surveillance balloon.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.