After the suspected Chinese spy balloon was discovered, three airports in South and North Carolina were closed. A little later the vehicle fell into the Atlantic.
The US military shot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic. This is reported by US media, citing a US official. TV images and eyewitness videos showed a white balloon being launched. A Reuters photographer also reported on it. The balloon was shot down by US Air Force fighter jets after passing through sensitive military sites across North America, fueling further tensions between the US and China, the AP news agency reports. An operation is currently underway in US territorial waters to recover the debris.
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
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Biden had already given the go-ahead on Wednesday to launch it as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to human life. 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. The Pentagon previously estimated that each debris field could be significant.
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 aim of the balloon is clearly espionage and its current path is through sensitive bases,” said a Pentagon official. 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
China firmly rejected the allegations of espionage on Saturday, speaking of a research balloon that was thrown off course by “force majeure”. It is a “civilian” balloon, especially for “meteorological purposes”, which accidentally flew into US airspace. “We do not accept groundless speculation and propaganda,” Beijing’s foreign ministry quoted top foreign policy chief Wang Yi as saying on Saturday.
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.
Sources: AP, , with material from AFP and DPA
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.