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Department of Defense: US shoot down Chinese balloon

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A Chinese observation balloon flies over the US, US fighter jets shoot it down. US Secretary of Defense Austin spoke of an “unacceptable violation” of US sovereignty.

After days of observation, the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the sea off the coast of the state of South Carolina.

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed on Saturday that US fighter jets had successfully brought down “the surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China” in American airspace on instructions from US President Joe Biden. The US accused China of spying on the balloon. Beijing firmly rejects the allegations.

Biden told reporters in the US state of Maryland on Saturday that he had given the order to shoot it down several days beforehand. 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 water within US sovereign territory.

Austin: Safe launch over water

Austin said after careful analysis, it was concluded that launching the balloon over land was 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. China tried to use the balloon to monitor strategic locations on the American mainland, he stressed. He spoke of an “unacceptable violation” of US sovereignty.

A senior Pentagon official told journalists on Saturday that recovery of the balloon was already in full swing. “It’s not clear how long it will take,” he said. The debris is in relatively shallow water, which will make recovery “quite easy,” it said. The balloon had been observed and tracked for some time. It appeared over Alaska on January 28, over Canada on January 30 and over the US state of Idaho on January 31.

Balloon sighted near US Air Force base

The US Department of Defense announced the sighting of the Chinese balloon on Thursday evening. The balloon had been sighted in various places, including in the US state of Montana near a US air force base where ICBMs with nuclear warheads are stored. On Saturday, eyewitnesses reported seeing the balloon in the US state of North Carolina in the eastern United States. TV images and videos from eyewitnesses showed how the white balloon was then hit in the air and crashed.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporarily restricted air traffic in the US states of North and South Carolina “due to national security measures” on Saturday. After the balloon was launched, the airspace was released again.

In response, US Secretary of State Blinken canceled his visit to Beijing, which was actually expected for Sunday, on Friday. He described the balloon’s entry into US airspace as “unacceptable” and “irresponsible.” China, on the other hand, spoke of a research balloon that was thrown off course by “force majeure”.

Ballons important observation platforms

It would have been the first visit by a US Secretary of State to China since 2018. According to media reports, Blinken should also have been 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.

Source: Stern

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