US shoots down Chinese spy balloon off Carolina coast

President Biden finally did the right thing. After pretty much running through all of the options first, of course. After spending the last 48 hours or so stonewalling and then dithering over what clearly appears to be a spy balloon from China, Biden ordered a strike on the craft — after it had completely transversed the US.

The U.S. shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday, after the high-altitude balloon spent the last week traveling across the country, according to the Pentagon.

“This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

An operation is reportedly underway to recover debris from the downed balloon, The Associated Press confirmed.

U.S. military commanders had previously declined to shoot down the balloon, which was estimated to be about the size of three school buses and traveling at about 60,000 feet, due to safety concerns on the ground, per AP.

U.S. defense officials confirmed the existence of the balloon on Thursday, after it was first spotted hovering over Montana on Wednesday. Beijing acknowledged on Friday that the balloon was Chinese but claimed it was a civilian airship used primarily for meteorological research.

“Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.”

However, the presence of the balloon has heightening tensions in an already strained relationship between Beijing and Washington. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to Beijing on Friday, with a senior State Department official calling the balloon a “clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law.”

The U.S. has refused to accept China’s explanation for the balloon, alleging that it was attempting to surveil “strategic sites” within the U.S. 

Something clearly was up this morning. Biden told reporters that he would “take care of it” today. Shortly afterward, the FAA issued a national-security “ground stop” in the Carolinas region, even though the balloon was an at altitude well above commercial aircraft usage. The agency also imposed a 22,000-square-mile restricted-airspace order.

The big question is why it took this long to take the obvious step, and what the shootdown now gained. Presumably, China gets real-time data from these crafts; retrieving them would save them money, but unless Beijing is staffed by total idiots, their missions are not reliant on retrieval. Biden essentially waited until the potential for intelligence acquisition had been completed. The White House has claimed that they didn’t want to risk falling debris over populated areas, but the China balloon had violated US airspace beginning at the Aleutian Islands. Biden had plenty of time to order the strike.

This afternoon, reports are emerging that not one but two more China balloons are on their way. Let’s hope that Biden develops a little more testicular fortitude.

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