News ID: 112115
Publish Date : 05 February 2023 - 21:42

U.S. Downs Chinese Balloon, Draws Beijing’s Wrath

WASHINGTON (AP/Sputnik) – The U.S. military has shot down a suspected Chinese balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft and threatened repercussions.
President Joe Biden issued the order but had wanted the balloon downed even earlier, on Wednesday. He was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, U.S. officials said. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.
China responded that it reserved the right to “take further actions” and criticized the U.S. for “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”
In its statement Sunday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “China will resolutely uphold the relevant company’s legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response.” China’s Ministry of Defense echoed the statement later in the day, saying it “reserves the right to take necessary measures to deal with similar situations.”
The presence of the balloon in the skies above the U.S. this week dealt a severe blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions. China says the trip was never officially announced.
Tensions between China and the United States have been intensifying over the past year. In December, a U.S. reconnaissance plane, colloquially known as a spy plane, was intercepted by a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea.
In 2021, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative said it found a “sharp increase in the intensity and frequency” of aerial reconnaissance operations in the area.
The giant white orb was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the Atlantic coast. About 2:39 p.m. EST, an F-22 fighter jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, senior defense officials said.
The spectacle had Americans looking to the skies all week, wondering whether the mysterious balloon had floated over them.
After its destruction, officials gathered the debris for study.
U.S. officials also admitted Saturday that similar balloons flew over the United States at least three times during the Trump administration and once earlier in the Biden administration. It is not clear what required this balloon’s destruction.