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China has acknowledged that a "spy balloon spotted over the USA is actually a civilian "airship" used for research.
It is thought its primary use is for meteorological purposes.
In a statement, China's Foreign Ministry explained that the balloon had "deviated far from its planned course" due to string winds.
The Ministry added that it regrets the incursion into US airspace.
US defence officials had earlier claimed that they believed that the balloon was in fact a "high-altitude surveillance".
The object is understood to have first flown over the Aleutian Islands in Alaska before it was seen drifting down through Canada.
On Wednesday (February 1) it reached the city of Billings in Montana.
The USA is thought to have nuclear missile silos stationed in Montanna.
Conversations had initially existed about the possibility of shooting the balloon down, but the idea was deemed a bad one for fear of falling debris over the USA, according to a defence official.
Officials had feared that the balloon's route would travel over "sensitive sites" and that they had been gearing up to “protect against foreign intelligence collection.”
Prior to China's statement, a US official said: “It is appearing to hang out for a longer period of time, this time around, [and is] more persistent than in previous instances. That would be one distinguishing factor”.
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