US shoots down Chinese ‘spy balloon’

A fighter jet destroyed the alleged surveillance device the moment it was over the ocean

The US has shot down what it termed a “Chinese surveillance balloon” off the coast of South Carolina. After traversing the country unimpeded for days, President Joe Biden said earlier on Saturday that he’d “take care of it.”

Video footage shared on social media showed fighter jets circling the balloon over Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Once it was over the Atlantic Ocean, a single missile hit the balloon and sent it plummeting into the water.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed the downing of the balloon shortly afterwards, saying that the military waited until the craft was over open water to minimize the threat to civilians on the ground.

Prior to the operation, the Federal Aviation Administration closed airspace over parts of North and South Carolina, in anticipation of the military operation to bring it down.

The mysterious craft was first seen over the western state of Montana on Wednesday, before it traversed the midwest en route to the Atlantic. Pentagon officials reportedly advised Biden against shooting the balloon down, leaving it free to travel for nearly three days. Amid growing media interest in the balloon, Biden told reporters on Saturday morning that “we’re going to take care of it.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Biden was first briefed on the balloon on Tuesday. However, she did not explain why the president waited until it was spotted by members of the public a day later to acknowledge its presence.

Beijing denied accusations of espionage, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry describing the balloon as a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” which “deviated from its intended course.” Austin said that it was being used to surveil “strategic sites in the continental United States.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to Beijing in response to the incident, with the State Department calling it “a clear violation of US sovereignty.” China countered that no such visit had been agreed on in the first place.

from RT – Daily news


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