U.S. military shoots down Chinese ‘spy’ balloon

Washington (Caasimada Online) – The U.S. military has on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of Carolina, on orders from President Joe Biden, according to the Pentagon.

The balloon, which traversed several sensitive military sites across North America, has become the latest source of tension between Washington and Beijing. 

President Biden had initially sought to have the balloon brought down on Wednesday but was advised to wait until it was over water. The F-22 fighter jet successfully punctured the balloon with a missile around six nautical miles off Myrtle Beach, South Carolina coast.  

The debris of the balloon landed in 47 feet of water. The U.S. Navy is taking the lead in the recovery operation, supported by the Coast Guard. Biden praised the aviators who successfully took down the balloon.

The incident raises questions about China’s intentions and the capabilities of the U.S. military to protect its airspace.

China’s denial of spying claims

China has continued to deny any claims of spying and has stated that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that had been blown off course.

The Pentagon rejected these claims and concluded that the balloon was indeed being used for surveillance purposes. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that the balloon’s journey was out of control and urged the U.S. not to “smear” it.

The journey of the balloon

The balloon entered the U.S. air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on January 28th. On Monday, it moved primarily over land across Alaska and into Canadian airspace in the Northwest Territories. 

It then crossed back into U.S. territory over northern Idaho on Tuesday, the same day that President Biden was first briefed on the balloon’s presence. 

The balloon was later spotted over Montana, home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The U.S. collected intelligence on the balloon as it flew over the country, giving them several days to analyze it and learn about its capabilities.

The cancellation of Blinken’s visit to Beijing

The public disclosure of the balloon on Thursday led to the cancellation of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing for talks aimed at reducing U.S.-China tensions. 

Blinken told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the U.S. was “an irresponsible act and that (China’s) decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have.” 

The Chinese government sought to play down the cancellation and stated that the U.S. and China had never officially announced the visit.

The Pentagon also acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said they now assess it as another Chinese surveillance balloon. 

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to questions about the second balloon.