Suspected Chinese spy balloon may cross into North Carolina on Saturday, report says

A suspected Chinese spy balloon could arrive in the skies above North Carolina on Saturday, according to a NOAA trajectory map published by The Washington Post on Friday.

The map showed the balloon heading from the central U.S. to above the North Carolina mountains and then just north of Charlotte, before traveling across southeastern North Carolina to the ocean.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, warned the balloon’s trajectory “includes flyovers near Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.”

“President Biden’s decision not to destroy it even as it passed through sparsely populated areas is puzzling, and we deserve answers,” Tillis said on Twitter just before 4 p.m. Friday.

Fort Bragg, bordering Fayetteville, is the largest U.S. Army base with about 52,000 active duty soldiers and 12,624 Reservists. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is a massive, 246-square-mile military training facility in Jacksonville at the coast.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command was closely monitoring the surveillance balloon, Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said at a news conference on Friday. Ryder is the Pentagon press secretary.

Ryder declined to specify the balloon’s path other than “eastward,” while insisting the balloon “does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time.”

CBS News reported: “China acknowledged Friday that a high-altitude balloon spotted this week over Montana does in fact belong to Beijing, but it referred to the airship as a civilian device ‘used for scientific research such as meteorology.’”

NORAD said Thursday the balloon is far higher than the altitudes of commercial airliners, although media reports on Friday quoted pilots saying the balloon was too close for comfort.

“We do know the balloon has violated U.S. airspace and international law, which is unacceptable,” Ryder said.

Spokespersons at the national headquarters of the National Weather Service in Maryland and the North American Aerospace Defense Command declined to discuss the balloon’s path or potential threat when contacted by The Charlotte Observer.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.