The China balloon, which the US military was confident was on a spy mission, was finally shot down after it had flown above US airspace for at least four days.
Related article : China’s Spy Threat? Why China’s Use of a Balloon to Penetrate U.S. Airspace
On Saturday, January 4th, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed that the United States fighter jets successfully shot down the China balloon over the Atlantic Ocean along the Eastern Seaboard of the country.
The operation ended a remarkable public drama that prompted a diplomatic fallout between Washington and Beijing, as the American public tracked the China balloon from Montana all the way to the Carolinas.
According to Lloyd Austin, The US President, Joe Biden has already ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down since Wednesday, January 1st, and must be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.
He told the media that American fighter jets successfully brought down the high-altitude China balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China over the water off the coast of South Carolina in US airspace on Saturday.
This decision has caused Biden to face intense criticism from Republicans for allowing the balloon to drift above the continental US for several days.
Prior to the balloon being shot down, the Federal Aviation Administration had issued a ground stop for airports in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Charleston and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
The FAA also restricted airspace near Myrtle Beach to support the Defense Department in a national security effort.
Then, advanced F-22 fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia then fired a single missile to take down the China balloon at 2.39 pm Eastern time on Saturday.
China’s Foreign Ministry has said the balloon entered US airspace by accident. But the State Department has said the presence of the balloon in US airspace was a clear violation of the US sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable that this has occurred.
According to CNN, one of the senior military officials said, the military’s attention next turns to recovering the balloon debris.
The US Navy and Coast Guard had assets on standby to assist with the recovery effort before the balloon was shot down.
Then, all the balloon equipment will be taken to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, to be analyzed by experts from the bureau and intelligence agencies.