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'What is that?': Locals, politicians react to Chinese spy balloon spotted around Kansas, Missouri

Posted at 3:08 PM, Feb 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-04 15:50:27-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Friday afternoon, Melissa Branstetter was in disbelief when her uncle called her to say he saw the Chinese spy balloon that had been on the news. Having to see it to believe it, she stepped out onto her porch in Lathrop, Missouri.

"What is that?" Branstetter said. "Looks like a big white dot in the sky, and then half an hour later, there was an airplane that went underneath it."

Branstetter immediately went to retrieve her camera with a high-powered zoom. It was then she saw it was a balloon.

"It was moving very slowly," Branstetter said of the object. "You can actually see the balloon, or whatever, a line, another line underneath it."

Branstetter was just one of many civilians who spotted the balloon hovering over Kansas and Missouri Friday.

The Pentagon says the balloon is neither a physical nor military threat, and shooting it down still remains a possibility.

As it remains in the air, local leaders have voiced their opinions.

Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids commented on the "serious development."

“Information is still emerging, but this could be a serious development in U.S.-China relations that requires further response. We cannot allow intentional violations of our airspace, and I am monitoring the situation as well as the Biden Administration’s response.”
Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids

On the Missouri side, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II called the balloon's presence "dangerouly antagonistic."

“The Chinese surveillance balloon floating into American airspace and across the mainland United States is an outrageous violation of international law and another dangerously antagonistic action from the Chinese Communist Party.

The President’s highest responsibility is the safety and security of the nation, and while I have confidence that the President and his administration will take deliberative steps to protect the homeland and ensure this contraption poses no risk to the American people, it is important that Congress be briefed on this situation immediately so that we may consider an appropriate, commensurate response.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, a Missouri Democrat

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says he is in contact with the Missouri National Guard and security partners about the situation. But still, he feels as though there has been a lack of communication from President Joe Biden's administration.

Despite explanation from the Pentagon as to why the government decided to hold off on shooting the balloon down, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley expressed he felt differently.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, former Missouri AG, said he thought the country should focus on "national interests" throughout the matter.

As for Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, the situation surrounding the balloon was "deeply disturbing."

Recently elected U.S. Rep. Mark Alford put his two cents on the situation, too. He criticized President Joe Biden for his "weak foreign policy."

The balloon floated through Missouri Friday afternoon from near Kansas City down to Columbia.

Journalist Matt McCabe shared a video of the object as it moved through the state.