April 22, 2024

A massive Chinese surveillance balloon that moved across the continental U.S. this week has been shot down.

The Pentagon has confirmed the balloon was being used for surveillance, disputing China’s claim that it was a civilian aircraft used for meteorological purposes. Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the balloon didn’t pose a physical or military threat, and once it was detected, the U.S. took steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.

The FBI is expected to take custody of any recovered components of the balloon and ship them to its lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis and intelligence gathering, a senior government official told ABC News.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to China as the balloon’s presence over the continental U.S. added new tension to the U.S.-China relationship. Blinken called the balloon a “clear violation” of U.S. sovereignty and international law.

The Chinese foreign ministry criticized the United States for downing its balloon.

“China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and protest against the U.S. using force to attack civilian unmanned airships,” the statement said.

The ministry asserted that they told the U.S. that the suspected spy balloon was an airship “for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure, which was completely accidental. China clearly requires the US to handle it properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner.”

China noted that the U.S. Department of Defense stated that the balloon did not pose a military or personal threat.

“In these circumstances, for the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention,” the statement said. “China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further.”

Mayor of Myrtle Beach criticizes balloon downing

The mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has criticized the government for its handling of downing the suspected spy balloon.

Mayor Brenda Bethune wrote “While this was done in a manner that ensured the safety of our citizens, I do have concerns about how the federal government can allow a foreign adversary to fly uninterrupted from Montana to our doorstep.”

Bethune added that she wanted the government to be more forthcoming about the circumstances surrounding the balloon.

“I hope we hear from our federal government how this happened and how they will prevent this, or anything like it, from happening again,” she wrote.

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