The U.S. military shot down the Chinese spy balloon on Saturday that traveled thousands of miles across the country after President Joe Biden refused to shoot it down over land.
U.S. officials have launched a recovery effort to collect the debris from the downed spy balloon in U.S. waters in the Atlantic Ocean.
Best video so far of the Chinese spy balloon being shot down pic.twitter.com/MrWB403OqJ
— BNO News Live (@BNODesk) February 4, 2023
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closed several airports in North and South Carolina and nearby airspace in conjunction with the U.S. military effort.
Biden has taken heavy criticism for his decision to let the spy balloon fly over the U.S. for thousands of miles when many officials say that he should have shot it down over Montana or over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
“What the Pentagon has said was we didn’t want to shoot it down because of the chances of civilian casualties. This is a balloon that didn’t get here overnight. It was over the Aleutian chain, which is one of the most sparsely populated places on the planet,” Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) said. “In Montana, Petroleum County, for example… the least populated county in the lower 48, I guarantee you, the fine citizens of Petroleum County would enjoy having it shot down over their county, and probably there would be a line to shoot it down.”
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said during a press conference on Friday that the balloon was maneuverable and was hovering at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet as it crossed the country.
“We know that balloon has violated US airspace and international law — which is unacceptable. And we’ve conveyed this directly to the PRC on multiple levels,” he told reporters Friday. “The fact is, we know that it’s a surveillance balloon, and I’m not going to be able to be more specific than that.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed in a statement that the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes.”
The statement claimed that the balloon “deviated far from its planned course.” The distance from China to Montana is approximately 5,000 miles.
An official told CNN that the spy balloon has flown over “a number of sensitive sites” in the U.S. but claimed that it did not present a serious intelligence gathering risk.
“Clearly they’re trying to fly this — this balloon over sensitive sites … to collect information,” a U.S. official said on Thursday.
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