The U.S. shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon on Friday (local time) that invaded the U.S. airspace with an F-22 combat plane. It has been seven days since the balloon was spotted in U.S. airspace. The balloon is suspected of spying on the U.S.’s key military bases. The Joe Biden administration condemned the Chinese counterpart for the "unacceptable violation of its sovereignty.” China, which expressed regret saying that it was an accidental event, criticized the U.S. for “overreaction using military force” after the surveillance balloon was shot down, raising tension between the two countries.
“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.,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement on Friday. President Biden also said it was his order to shoot down the balloon.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the surveillance balloon was shot down with an F-22 combat plane’s air-to-air missile, which made a sortie from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, as the balloon entered the Atlantic Ocean at 2:39 p.m. on Friday. The Biden administration ordered ‘ground stop,’ which suspends take-offs of planes, at three nearby airports. The FBI and the coastguard will collect the remains of the surveillance balloon in the Atlantic Ocean and survey them.
The Chinese surveillance balloon invaded the airspace over Alaska on January 28. It crossed the U.S. territory for seven days through Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana on Wednesday and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri on Thursday. These are the U.S.’s key military bases where nuclear weapons, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, are deployed.
“It is a surveillance asset to scout the U.S.’s strategic bases,” Secretary Austin said. He added that it is an unacceptable violation of the country’s sovereignty, forewarning strict responses against Chinese surveillance balloons by defining them as military surveillance reconnaissance assets. On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his visit to China, which was scheduled for Sunday. The secretary talked to China’s Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, Wang Yi, and protested against the surveillance balloon’s violation of the U.S. airspace.