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Florida

US shoots down Chinese balloon, draws threat from China

Taipei – US forces shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday.

President Joe Biden issued the order but wanted the balloon to go down earlier on Wednesday. Military officials decided that bringing it down from 60,000 feet would pose undue danger to people on the ground.

China responded by saying it reserved the right to “take further action” and criticized the United States for “a clear overreaction and a grave violation of international practice.”

“China resolutely defends the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise and reserves the right to take further actions accordingly,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The balloon’s presence over the United States this week has dealt a severe blow to an already strained US-China relationship that has been in a vicious cycle for years.urged Secretary of State Anthony Brinken Abruptly canceling a much-anticipated visit to Beijing aimed at de-escalating tensions.

After disembarking Air Force One on its way to Camp David, Biden said, “They successfully took it down. I want to salute our aviators who did it.

A giant white orb was spotted Saturday morning high above the Carolina Mountains, approaching the Atlantic coast. At about 2:39 p.m. ET, an F-22 fighter fired a missile at the balloon, and Myrtle, South Carolina, said he blew a hole in the balloon about six nautical miles off the coast near the beach, Defense said. the official said.

For a week, Americans looked up at the sky, wondering if a mysterious balloon had hovered over them.

On Saturday, 33-year-old Ashlyn Preaux went to Forestbrook, South Carolina to pick up some mail and noticed her neighbors looking up. Then she watched her fighters circle and the balloons collide.

“I didn’t know I woke up today and found myself in a ‘Top Gun’ movie,” she said.

The debris landed in 47 feet of water, shallower than officials expected, spread over about seven miles, and several ships were involved in the recovery effort. Officials estimate that the restoration work will be completed in a short period of time rather than weeks. A rescue ship was underway.

U.S. defense and military officials said Saturday that the balloon entered U.S. air defense areas north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28, traveled over land, primarily across Alaska, and entered Canadian airspace in the Northwest Territories on Monday. said to come in. It returned to U.S. territory across northern Idaho on Tuesday.

balloon Spotted Thursday over Montanahome to Malmstrom Air Force Base with a field of nuclear missile silos.

According to two senior defense officials, Americans can collect information as balloons fly over the United States, analyze them, and learn how they move and what they can monitor. Given a few days, the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. military is constantly assessing threats, officials said, and concluded that the technology aboard the balloon did not provide China with more critical information than it could already obtain from satellites. it has moved along.

Republicans were critical of Biden’s response.

“Allowing a Chinese Communist Party spy balloon to travel across the continental United States before its existence is challenged is a dire prediction of weakness by the White House,” said Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker. I was. Committee.

Senator Tom Tillis (RN.C.) tweeted: Communist China has been allowed to violate American sovereignty unhindered for days. We must prepare for future provocations and aggression by the CCP. ”

Senator Lindsay Graham (RS.C.) was more positive. The Biden administration did the right thing by overthrowing it.”

China claims the balloon is simply a weather-research “blimp” that has been blown off course. The Pentagon has rejected it out of hand — as well as China’s claim that it was not used for surveillance and had limited navigation capabilities.

The Chinese government on Saturday tried to downplay the cancellation of Blinken’s trip. “In fact, the United States and China have never announced a visit, and it is self-serving for the United States to make such an announcement, and we respect it,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement. Stated.

The Pentagon also confirmed reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We are now determining that it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder said in a statement. Officials said the balloons are part of a fleet used by China for surveillance and can be controlled remotely via small motors and propellers. One official said the pod under the balloon carries equipment not normally associated with standard meteorological activity or civilian research.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to questions about the second balloon.

It’s not the first time in years that a Chinese spy balloon has entered US airspace, one of the officials said. Officials said they’ve seen balloons cross at least three times during the Trump administration and at least once during the Biden administration, but not this long.

Blinken, who was due to leave Washington for Beijing late Friday, called senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi and said sending balloons over the United States was “an irresponsible act, and that (China) I made the decision to take the ,” he said. The eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussion we were preparing. ”

The uncensored response on China’s internet reflected the government’s official view that the United States was overhyping the situation. Some have used it as an opportunity to make fun of US defenses, saying they can’t even defend against balloons, and nationalist influencers have used the news to mock the US.

China denied espionage claims and said it was a civilian balloon intended for weather research. The Foreign Office emphasized that balloon travel is out of control and urged the United States not to “defame” balloons for them.

In preparation for Saturday’s operations, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily closed airspace along the Carolina coast, including airports in Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. The FAA has rerouted air traffic out of the region and warned of delays as a result of flight restrictions. The FAA and Coast Guard worked to clear the airspace and water beneath the balloon when it reached the ocean.

Television footage showed a small explosion, after which a huge, deflated balloon descended like a ribbon into the water.

Bill Swanson said from his home in Myrtle Beach, he saw the balloon instantly deflate as the fighters circled.

“When it deflated, it was almost instant,” he said. A trail of smoke followed the balloon, he added.

___

Chris Megerian, Associated Press writer, lives in Hagerstown, Maryland. Tara Copp and Mary Claire Jaronic of Washington. Meg Kinnard of Columbia, South Carolina. Kimberly Cruesi of Nashville, Tennessee. Huizhong in Taipei. and Beijing researcher Henry Hou contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2023/02/04/china-plays-down-blinkens-canceled-visit-over-balloon/ US shoots down Chinese balloon, draws threat from China

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