Sunday, September 24, 2023

U.S. shoots down China’s spy balloon over Atlantic Ocean

The surveillance device was shot down with a single missile by an F-22 fighter jet on Saturday.

• February 4, 2023
China surveillance balloon
China surveillance balloon

The United States has shot down China’s surveillance balloon, which drifted in course from China into the U.S. through Canada. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement Saturday afternoon that President Joe Biden had given his authorisation on Wednesday “to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.”

The New York Times reported that the surveillance device was shot down with a single missile by an F-22 fighter jet on Saturday when it had moved off the coast and was over the Atlantic Ocean.

Other warplanes, which were deployed from Langley Air Force Base, accompanied the jet in the action, a senior military officer told reporters at the Pentagon.

The fighters were at 58,000 feet and the balloon was travelling at a height of between 60,000 and 65,000 feet, the official added. 

Mr Biden had told reporters at a private function that his government was “going to take care of it.” 

The Pentagon had held off shooting down the device for fear of injuring civilians or damaging infrastructure.

“They decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water within our 12-mile limit,” the president said.

“They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators that did it,” Mr Biden added. 

The balloon, which spent five days travelling in a diagonal southeast route from Idaho to the Carolinas, sparked the possibility of a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Beijing.

It is not immediately clear whether shooting down the device would put the impending crisis to rest as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned visit to China remains on hold.

China had claimed the balloon was only on a weather reconnaissance mission across the Pacific, but U.S. officials maintained it was fitted with spy tools and hovered over major U.S. nuclear and military facilities. 

“Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Mr Austin said of the People’s Republic of China’s action.

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