The United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday after it crossed sensitive military sites in North America and became the latest point of tension between Washington and Beijing.
An operation was underway in US territorial waters to recover debris from the balloon that flew at approximately 60,000 feet and was estimated to be the size of three school buses.
Prior to the downing, President Joe Biden had said earlier Saturday, “We’re going to take care of that,” when asked by reporters about the balloon. The Federal Aviation Administration and Coast Guard worked to clear the airspace and water below.
Television footage showed a small explosion, after which the balloon descended towards the water.
The Biden administration had said it was moving forward with plans to shoot down a large Chinese balloon suspected of spying on the US military, once it was brought down over the Atlantic Ocean where the remains could potentially be recovered. , said two US officials.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, said President Joe Biden has given the go-ahead. In brief remarks Saturday in response to a reporter’s question about the balloon, Biden said: “We’re going to take care of that.”
The balloon was spotted over the Carolinas on Saturday morning as it approached the Atlantic coast. In preparation for the operation, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily closed airspace along the Carolina coastline, including airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, until at least 2:45 p.m. EST Saturday. The FAA was re-routing air traffic through the area and warned of delays as a result of the flight restrictions.
The Coast Guard advised sailors to leave the area immediately due to US military operations “which present a significant threat”.
Officials were aiming to time the operation so that they could recover as much debris as possible before it sank into the sea. The Pentagon previously estimated that the balloon flying at about 60,000 feet in the air was the size of three school buses and that any debris would be substantial.
Biden was inclined to jettison the balloon when he was first informed about it on Tuesday, but Pentagon officials advised against it, warning that the potential risk to people on the ground was a potential Chinese threat. Intelligence is more than an assessment of profit.
The balloon’s public disclosure this week canceled a visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, scheduled for Sunday for talks aimed at reducing US-China tensions. The Chinese government tried to cancel Saturday.
“In fact, the US and China have never announced any visit, any such announcement is the US’s own business and we respect that,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday morning.
China continues to claim that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that was blown up. The Pentagon rejected this – as well as China’s argument that it was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational capability.
The balloon was seen over Montana, home to one of three US nuclear missile silo areas at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
The Pentagon also acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now assess that this is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brig. Pentagon Press Secretary General Pat Ryder said in a statement.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a question about the second balloon.
Blinken, who was scheduled to leave for Beijing from Washington late Friday, said he told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the US was “an irresponsible act and it (China’s) ) was the decision to take this action.” The eve of my visit is detrimental to the important discussions we were set to have.
Uncensored responses on the Chinese Internet reflected the official government stance that the US was exaggerating the situation. Some call it the U.S. Used it as an opportunity to poke fun at the security, saying it couldn’t even defend against a balloon, and nationalist influencers called the U.S.
China has denied any claims of espionage and said it was a civilian-use balloon for meteorological research. The Ministry of External Affairs emphasized that the balloon’s journey was beyond its control and urged the US not to “smear” it on the basis of the balloons.
Associated Press writer Huizhong Wu in Taipei and Researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.
Learn how to navigate and strengthen trust in your business with The Trust Factor, a weekly newsletter that examines what leaders need to succeed. Sign up here.