The United States shoots down a Chinese spy balloon with one missile and begins to recover its wreckage


A US military fighter jet shot down a suspected Chinese spying balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, in a dramatic finale that highlighted deteriorating Sino-US relations.

“We succeeded in getting rid of it, and I want to commend our pilots who did,” US President Joe Biden said.

He added that he issued an order on Wednesday to shoot down the balloon, but the Pentagon recommended waiting until it could be done in an open area over the water.

A senior US military official said several fighter jets and refueling planes took part in the mission but only one, an F-22 fighter jet, carried out the mission with a single AIM-9X missile.

The official added that the balloon was shot down six nautical miles off the US coast.

This came shortly after the US government ordered the suspension of flights to and from three South Carolina airports, Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Charleston, today due to undisclosed national security efforts.

The flights were later resumed.

Washington had described the balloon flight as a clear violation of US sovereignty.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was the first to announce the downing of the balloon, saying that China used it “in an attempt to monitor strategic sites in the United States”.

Earlier in the day, Biden said the United States would take charge of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, which was tracked while it was flying over the United States.

China expressed regret that the blimp used for civil meteorology and other scientific purposes lost its way and entered the airspace of the United States.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said, Saturday, that the airship over the United States was due to force majeure, and accused politicians and the US media of exploiting the accident to discredit China.

The Pentagon said on Friday that another Chinese balloon had been spotted over Latin America, without specifying its exact location.

Earlier, shortly after the discovery of the first Chinese airship, the Pentagon announced that it was studying options for dealing with the Chinese airship, adding that the US Secretary of Defense suggested not shooting it down for fear of potential dangers.

The New York Times quoted US officials as saying that the discovery of the Chinese airship in US airspace came after a confidential report was submitted to Congress regarding the recording of two incidents related to air surveillance by a competing force using unknown advanced technology.

The New York Times stated that the recorded incidents included balloons and drones, and US officials suggested that China is the party carrying out this work.

The monitoring of the balloon led to the postponement of a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China that was scheduled for Friday, after the Chinese balloon was spotted in US airspace.

Blinken’s tour would have been the first visit of the highest-ranking US official to China since 2018.

Blinken said he had made it clear to his Chinese counterpart that the entry of the airship into US territory was a violation of sovereignty, adding that his country was confident that the Chinese airship was being used for espionage purposes.

The US Secretary of State confirmed the US commitment to diplomacy with China, and that it will maintain open lines of communication with China.

Blinken indicated that his visit to Beijing is still ongoing, but when conditions permit.

On the other hand, Director of the Office of the Chinese Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi said that his country and the United States should maintain focus and communicate in a timely manner.

Wang added, in a phone call Friday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the two countries should avoid miscalculation and properly manage differences in the face of unexpected situations, according to Xinhua.

Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Minister Chen Jang informed Blinken by phone of his country’s rejection of any baseless speculation about the balloon incident, and the two sides also discussed how to deal with accidents in a calm and professional manner and avoid miscalculation.

“China has always strictly observed international law and respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry reaffirmed that the balloon’s flight in US airspace was an accident beyond the will, and accused some politicians and the media in the United States of exploiting the matter to attack Beijing and tarnish its image.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had said earlier that the airship, which was monitored by the United States, was civilian, and was used for research purposes, especially air monitoring, adding that the airship had deviated from its planned path, and that it regretted that it entered US airspace unintentionally.

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