U.S. Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloon, Ending Its Journey Across North America
On Saturday morning, President Joe Biden promised to “take care” of the Chinese spy balloon that spent the past week hovering high above North America, and by the afternoon, he delivered as the U.S. shot the surveillance device down.
According to U.S. officials, the military shot down the balloon as it crossed over the coast of the Carolinas and into the Atlantic Ocean, the New York Times reports. In the hours before the operation, the Federal Aviation Administration had issued a ground stop for airports in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Charleston and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, citing the need “to support the Defense Department in a national security effort.”
Speaking to reporters hours earlier, President Biden said that his administration was “gonna take care” of the spy balloon, which the Chinese government has claimed is a civilian machine that entered U.S. airspace by accident.
Following the military operation, Biden told reporters, ““I told them to shoot it down. They said to me let’s wait for the safest place to do it.”
The Pentagon had initially been reluctant to fire on the balloon, since it was floating above populated areas for fear that the falling debris could land on civilians. Still, those warnings didn’t stop conservatives from threatening to open fire on the balloon that launched a thousand bad takes themselves.
While the floating object’s current flight path was headed towards “a number of sensitive sites,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Thursday that the balloon does not present a significant risk to intelligence, and that the military decided against shooting it down.
“The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground,” Ryder said. The official also stated that this type of “balloon activity” has been previously observed over the past several years, and that in the past, the U.S. government has taken immediate action to “protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
U.S .Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his planned diplomatic trip to China this week, saying the balloon incident had “created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip.”