US shoots down airship over Atlantic after China balloon

The US claims that a huge Chinese blimp that was allegedly spying on important military installations around the country was shot down.

The balloon was taken down over US territorial seas, according to confirmation from the Department of Defense’s fighter jets.

The military conducted the operation on Saturday, closing three airports and restricting airspace near the coasts of North and South Carolina.

After a tiny explosion, the balloon was seen descending to the sea in AP news footage.

Since the balloon first entered its airspace last week, US President Joe Biden has come under pressure to shoot it down.

The Pentagon reported that Mr. Biden gave his approval on Wednesday to the plan to detach the surveillance balloon “as soon as the operation could be executed without excessive risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.”

Due to the risk of falling debris, officials had urged him against attempting to target the object while it was over land.

In response to a question about what would happen to the high-altitude craft, President Biden earlier in the day promised reporters he would “take care of it.”

The balloon’s appearance over the US coincides with escalating hostilities between Washington and Beijing, which led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a trip to Beijing.

High-altitude spying represents a new low in US-China relations.
Was the China balloon deviated off its course?
Why not utilize satellites instead of a spy balloon?
The presence of the “spy” balloon, according to Mr. Blinken, was “an irresponsible act.” China, who claims it is a weather ship that got off course, has encouraged “cool-headed” handling of the conflict.

Prior to this announcement, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said all commercial flights had been halted at three airports along the South Carolina coast on Saturday due to a “national security action”.

Due to military actions “that create a major hazard,” the coast guard has already warned ships to vacate the area.

Watch the video with the caption: BBC security journalist Gordon Corera discusses the US/China dispute.

China attempted to downplay Mr. Blinken’s visit over the balloon’s postponement on Saturday by claiming that neither party had formally announced a trip.

Beijing “would not accept any baseless supposition or exaggeration,” the foreign ministry of China declared in a statement, accusing “certain politicians and media in the United States” of using the incident “as an excuse to attack and slander China.”

US officials claim that the balloon passed over Alaska and Canada before surfacing over Montana, a US state that is home to several critical nuclear missile facilities.

On the eve of his visit to China, Mr. Blinken told Beijing that the balloon’s existence was “a blatant violation of US sovereignty and international law” and that it was “an irresponsible act.” The event infuriated senior US officials.

On February 5 and 6, the senior American diplomat was scheduled to travel to Beijing for talks on a variety of topics, including security, Taiwan, and Covid-19. The summit would have been the first important one between China and the US in years.

Plans, however, failed after Thursday’s announcement by American defense authorities that they were monitoring a massive surveillance balloon over the US.

Finally acknowledging ownership of the balloon on Friday, China claimed it was a civilian airship used for meteorological research that had veered from its intended path due to inclement weather.

Late on Friday, the Pentagon confirmed the discovery of a second Chinese spy balloon over Latin America, with sightings over Costa Rica and Venezuela.

China has not yet responded publicly to the alleged second balloon.

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