Suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down |

Joe Biden gave the order
US warplane shoots down suspected Chinese spy balloon – China wants to react

The end of a spy thriller: An F22 fighter jet passes the shot-up balloon that the USA assumes is a Chinese spy balloon

© Chad Fish/Chad Fish/AP/DPA

A Chinese spy balloon flies over the United States for days before being shot down on Saturday evening. While the US sees a violation of its sovereignty, China speaks of an “overreaction”.

The US military shot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed on Saturday (local time) that US fighter jets, on the instructions of US President Joe Biden, had crashed “the surveillance balloon that belongs to the People’s Republic of China” off the Atlantic coast of South Carolina. TV images and eyewitness videos showed a white balloon being launched. The US accused China of spying on the balloon. Beijing protested against the “obvious overreaction” on Sunday and again rejected the allegations. Meanwhile, Colombia announced that an object with “properties similar to a balloon” had entered its airspace.

Shortly before, US authorities had temporarily closed three airports in the east of the country. “In order to support the Department of Defense in a national security measure,” the arrivals and departures at the three airports of Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Charleston in the states of South and North Carolina were interrupted, the aviation authority said on Saturday. Traffic resumed shortly after the balloon was launched.

US Secretary of State warns China of balloon launch

Biden told reporters on Saturday that he had given the order to launch the balloon over the United States several days ago. As early as Wednesday, when he was informed about the balloon, he ordered the flying object to be shot down “as quickly as possible”. A risk for the people on the ground should be ruled out. Therefore, it was decided to shoot down the flying object only over the sea but within US sovereign territory.

After careful analysis, it was concluded that launching the balloon over land would be too dangerous due to the size and height of the balloon and its load. It was therefore decided to shoot down the balloon safely over US territorial waters. The measure was carried out in cooperation with Canada.

Television footage showed a small explosion followed by the balloon’s descent toward the Atlantic. US military jets flew nearby. In addition, ships were used in the salvage operation. This is planned in such a way that as much debris as possible can be recovered before it sinks into the ocean.

After the launch, a senior Pentagon official said recovery of the balloon was now in full swing. “It’s not clear how long it will take,” he said. The wreckage is in relatively shallow water, making recovery “pretty easy.” The balloon had been observed and tracked for some time. He appeared over Alaska on January 28th, over Canada on January 30th and over the US state of Idaho on January 31st.

The Chinese government expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” with the US use of force against a “civilian unmanned airship”. It is a “serious violation” of international practices. China reserves the right to “necessary reactions,” said a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing. China has repeatedly informed the United States that the balloon is for civilian purposes and that it flew over the United States “by force majeure, which was completely accidental.” The Pentagon itself said the balloon posed no threat to the military or people on the ground.

The overflight of the balloon the size of three buses became public on Thursday. The balloon was sighted over the US state of Montana, Central America and also Missouri. On Saturday, eyewitnesses reported seeing the balloon in the US state of North Carolina, in the eastern United States. “The balloon’s objective is clearly espionage and its current path is through sensitive bases,” a Pentagon official said. The fact that the balloon flew near the US Air Force base in Montana, where ICBMs equipped with nuclear warheads are stored, also caused a stir in the USA. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the penetration of the “surveillance balloon” into US airspace “unacceptable” and “irresponsible” and spoke of an “unacceptable violation” of US sovereignty.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “made it clear” in a conversation with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Friday morning that the US “reserves the right to take any measures we deem appropriate to protect our interests,” the news channel quoted as saying CNN a senior government official.

China denies espionage allegations

The US Secretary of State canceled his visit to Beijing, which was expected for Sunday. It would have been the first visit by a US Secretary of State to China since 2018. According to media reports, Blinken was also to be received by China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping. Although the expectations of the visit were not high, there were hopes that it would calm the turbulent and difficult relations.

Balloons are considered important observation platforms. Unlike satellites, they can stay in one place and don’t have to make a new orbit around the earth to take more pictures, experts say. You could observe from a closer distance, are difficult to detect for radar. They could also intercept communications. The navigation options are significantly improved today, so that they no longer depend solely on the wind.

Meanwhile, Colombia has now also informed about an unknown object that has entered its airspace and has “similar properties to a balloon”. On the morning of February 3, the national air defense system discovered an object at an altitude of around 17,000 meters over the northern sector of the country, the Colombian air force said on Saturday (local time). It presented “no threat to national security”. The Air Force is now working with other countries to determine the origin of the object. Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said in Washington on Friday that another possible spy balloon was hovering over Latin America. Initially, there was no information about the second balloon from Beijing.

Sources: dpa, AP, CNNwith material from AFP


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