Chinese Surveillance Balloon Allegedly Shot Down

Credit: Chase Doak via Reuters

A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that had been travelling across the nation for many days was shot down by the American military on Saturday, as reported by CNBC.

Suspicious balloon

In a statement Saturday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said a U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the balloon at the direction of President Joe Biden. Lloyd said the balloon was being used by the People’s Republic of China “in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.”

Biden gave authorization on Wednesday to take down the balloon as soon as it could be done “without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path,” Lloyd said.

“In accordance with the President’s direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities,” he said in the statement.

The high-altitude balloon, which is thought to be the size of three school buses, is shown in television footage bursting in a minor explosion before plummeting into the lake. As per NBC News, officials would make an effort to salvage the debris.

Shoot it down!

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina and closed additional airspace on Saturday afternoon. The departures were paused “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort,” a representative told CNBC. Normal operations began resuming later that afternoon, the FAA said on Twitter.

Biden broke his silence about the balloon for the first time Saturday, telling a group of reporters, “We’re going to take care of it.” Later that afternoon, he told reporters that he had instructed officials to “shoot it down” on Wednesday, but that they wanted to wait until it was as safe as possible.

“They successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” Biden said. “And we’ll have more to report on this a little later.”

The balloon was first seen on Wednesday over Billings, Montana. Defence insiders claimed that earlier this week, the Pentagon considered shooting down the balloon but changed its mind after briefing Biden. Senior officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, were consulted before making the choice.

According to a Pentagon official, Biden came to the conclusion that the U.S. would not shoot down the balloon because its debris could hurt people on the ground. In addition, any data gathered by the balloon would be of “little additional value” in comparison to China’s surveillance satellites.

The balloon, according to China’s Foreign Ministry, was a civilian weather airship used for scientific investigation that was blown off course. It claimed that the incident was the consequence of “force majeure” that was beyond its control.

Rejecting the claim

U.S. officials swiftly rejected this claim. On Thursday evening, a senior Pentagon official informed reporters that the object was unmistakably a surveillance balloon that was circling sensitive locations to gather intelligence.

“We have noted the PRC statement of regret, but the presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law and is unacceptable that this has occurred,” the official said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken decided to postpone his already contentious trip to China on Friday indefinitely because of the balloon’s presence.

As tensions have grown over China’s escalating military aggression towards Taiwan and closer ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the visit was meant to strengthen relations and collaboration between the two nations.

Instead, Blinken told China’s director of Central Foreign Affairs Office, Wang Yi, in a phone call Friday that the balloon was an “irresponsible act and a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law that undermined the purpose of the trip,” according to a readout of the discussion.


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Source: CNBC


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