UPDATE 1-China says balloon over U.S. is civilian vessel blown off course
(Adds quotes, details, changes dateline)
BEIJING, Feb 3 (Reuters) - China said on Friday an "airship" that is flying over the United States is for civilian meteorological and other scientific purposes and voiced regret that it strayed into U.S. airspace.
U.S. officials said on Thursday that a Chinese spy balloon has been flying over the United States for a couple of days, in what would be a brazen act just days ahead of a planned trip to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
In a statement late on Friday, China's foreign ministry also said that it would continue to maintain communications with the United States to properly handle the unexpected situation.
"The airship is from China and is civilian in nature, used for meteorological and other scientific research. Due to the influence of westerly winds and its limited control capability, the airship deviated from its intended course," it said.
"China regrets that the airship strayed into the United States by mistake due to force majeure. China will continue to maintain communication with the U.S. side to properly handle this accident," it said. (Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Writing by Tony Munroe; editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Mark Heinrich)