Suspected Chinese spy balloon flying above U.S. shot down off Carolina coast
The suspected Chinese spy balloon that’s been spotted over U.S. airspace in recent days was shot down near the Carolina coastline on Saturday, officials said.
The suspected Chinese spy balloon spotted over U.S. airspace in recent days was shot down on Saturday by an F-22 fighter jet near the Carolina coastline, officials said.
President Biden said he ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday, but national security officials were concerned about the damage it could cause and waited until it was over water instead of land.
“They successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it," Biden told reporters on Saturday, as an operation was underway to recover debris from the balloon — which had been floating at an altitude of around 60,000 feet — in the Atlantic Ocean. A livestream of the balloon showed it deflated and falling toward the water below.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said Biden "gave his authorization" to take out the balloon "as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon's path.
"The balloon, which was being used by the [People's Republic of China] in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters," Austin said, adding that military commanders came up with options "to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities."
Austin said the takedown was coordinated with the Canadian government. A
After days of Americans following the surveillance balloon travel above the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday shut down three airports in both North and South Carolina to clear airspace “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort," suggesting that it would be taken out.
Despite being described by the Pentagon as a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, China’s Foreign Ministry insisted it was being used for weather research and had blown off course.
Said to be around the size of three buses, the balloon flew over Canada and Alaska’s Aleutian Islands before being spotted in the continental United States. It then made its way eastward, being spotted across the country before it was shot down on the East Coast on Saturday afternoon.
The U.S. had been tracking the balloon since at least Tuesday, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who said that was when Biden was first briefed on the situation. Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said officials had been observing the balloon via multiple methods, including piloted aircraft, for a number of days.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken abruptly canceled a visit to Beijing to meet with his counterpart, Wang Yi, telling him in a phone call that sending the balloon to the U.S. was “an irresponsible act and a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law that undermined the purpose of the trip.”
While Chinese officials claimed the balloon was used for meteorological purposes, the Pentagon called it a "surveillance" object. The balloon flew over Montana, the location of one of the United States’ three nuclear missile silo fields, at Malmstrom Air Force Base. A senior defense official said the U.S. is confident that the balloon was being flown over sensitive sites to collect information.
Defense officials confirmed on Friday that a second suspected Chinese spy balloon was spotted flying above Latin America.