A suspected Chinese spy balloon recently spotted over the United States was shot down by Air Force fighters near the Carolina coastline on Saturday, officials said.
President Biden said Wednesday he ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down, but national security officials were concerned about the damage it could cause and waited until it was on water rather than land.
Biden said Saturday that an operation was underway to retrieve debris from a balloon that was hovering at an altitude of about 60,000 feet in the Atlantic Ocean, saying, “They successfully brought it down, so I did it on our flight. I want to complement Tsukasa,” he told reporters.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said Biden “given permission” to remove the balloon.
“The balloons used at that time were [People’s Republic of China] Austin was lowered over U.S. territorial waters in an attempt to monitor a strategic location on the U.S. mainland,” the military commander said, adding that he was figuring out options. Information gathering activities. ”
Austin said the removal was coordinated with the Canadian government.
Days after Americans followed surveillance balloons flying over the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday close three airports In both North Carolina and South Carolina, it proposed clearing the airspace “to assist the Pentagon in its national security efforts” and suggested it would be removed.
Despite the Pentagon’s explanation that it was a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed it was being used for meteorological research and had gone off course.
Said to be about the size of three buses, the balloon was discovered in the mainland United States after flying over Canada and Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. It then headed east and was spotted across the country before being shot down on the East Coast Saturday afternoon.
The United States has been tracking the balloon since at least Tuesday, according to White House press secretary Carine Jean-Pierre. She said that was when Biden was first briefed on the situation. Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. General Pat Ryder said officials had been observing the balloon in multiple ways, including manned aircraft, for several days.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken abruptly canceled a trip to Beijing to meet with Secretary of State Wang Yi, telling him by phone that sending balloons to states was “an irresponsible act and a violation of US sovereignty.” It is a clear violation of international law and undermines the purpose of travel.”
Chinese officials claimed the balloon was used for weather purposes, but the Pentagon called it a “surveillance” target. I flew over the base. A senior defense official said the US believed the balloon was flying over a classified site to gather intelligence.
Defense officials said Friday that the second suspected Chinese spy balloon Found flying over Latin America.