President Joe Biden requested that the balloon be brought down on Wednesday, but was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, according to US officials. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from 60,000 feet would endanger people on the ground.
The presence of the balloon in the skies above the United States this week dealt a severe blow to already strained US-China relations, which have been on the decline for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel an important trip to Beijing aimed at defusing tensions.
New video of the Chinese spy balloon being shot down pic.twitter.com/XwRVA7s1Hu
— BNO News Live (@BNODesk) February 4, 2023
“They successfully took it down, and I want to commend our aviators who did it,” Biden said as he stepped off Air Force One on his way to Camp David.
According to China’s Foreign Ministry, the balloon was a civilian weather airship intended for scientific research that was blown off course. It blamed the incident on “force majeure” for which it was not responsible.
This claim was flatly denied by US officials. According to a senior Pentagon official, the object was clearly a surveillance balloon flying over sensitive sites to collect intelligence.
“We have noted the PRC’s 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 this is unacceptable,” the official said.
According to the Pentagon, another Chinese spy balloon is passing through Latin America on Friday evening.
“We’re hearing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America,” Ryder told CNN. “We now believe it is a Chinese surveillance balloon.”
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