Washington: The United States on Saturday shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean as it crossed the continental America after hovering over its skies from Montana to South Carolina.
This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, US fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People's Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in US airspace, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
The balloon, which was being used by the People's Republic of China in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above US territorial waters, he said in a statement.
On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorisation 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, he said.
After careful analysis, US military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload, Austin said.
In accordance with the President's direction, the Department of Defence developed options to take down the balloon safely over its territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities.
This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government, said the Defence Secretary.
He thanked Canada for its contribution in tracking and analysing the balloon through NORAD as it transited North America.
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, Austin said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer welcomed the move of shooting down the balloon. I strongly condemn President Xi's brazen incursion into American airspace and I commend President Biden's leadership in taking down the Chinese balloon over water to ensure safety for all Americans. Now we can collect the equipment and analyze the technology used by the Chinese Communist Party, Schumer said.
Allowing a spy balloon from the Communist Party of China to travel across the entire continental United States before contesting its presence is a disastrous projection of weakness by the White House, Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Senator Roger Wicker said.
It is clear that standard protocol for defense of US airspace was ignored. If press reports are correct, the Biden Administration hoped to hide this incident from the American people from the start, he said.
The White House owes Congress and the American people answers about this failure, and I intend to get those answers without delay, Wicker said....