The United States shot down the Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of Carolina on Saturday and will try to recover its remains, according to a US official.
The action came a couple of hours after President Joe Biden responded to a reporter who asked if the United States would shoot down the balloon. “We’ll take care of that,” Biden said, in his first public comments on the balloon.
In comments to reporters after the balloon was shot down, Biden said he gave the order to the Pentagon after being informed on Wednesday.
«They decided, without harming anyone on land, that the best time to do it was when it was over the water,» he said. «They successfully shot it down and I want to congratulate our Airmen who did it.» And we’ll have more to report on this a bit later.»
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the balloon was shot down off the South Carolina coast in a statement.
«This afternoon, under the direction of President Biden, a U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully shot down the PRC-launched high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in United States airspace,» Austin said.
«The balloon, which was being used by the People’s Republic of China in an attempt to survey strategic sites in the continental United States, was shot down over United States territorial waters,» it said.
Biden on Wednesday «gave his authorization to shoot down the balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to the lives of Americans in the balloon’s path,» he added. «After careful analysis, US military commanders have people over a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload.»
Hours before it was shot down, residents of North Carolina and South Carolina reported seeing the spy balloon on Saturday, and the Federal Aviation Administration halted departures and arrivals at three local airports to support the Department of Defense in «a national security effort,” according to a statement. FAA statement.
Some lawmakers took to social media to applaud Biden’s decision to take down the spy balloon while others pressed the administration for more details.
“I strongly condemn President Xi’s brazen incursion into US airspace, and commend President Biden’s leadership in shooting down the Chinese balloon over water to ensure the safety of all Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck tweeted. Schumer, after the news. «Now we can collect the equipment and analyze the technology used by the CCP.»
This is a developing story. Come back later for updates.
julie tsirkin contributed.