Home World America US military shoots down ‘spy balloon’ over Atlantic Ocean

US military shoots down ‘spy balloon’ over Atlantic Ocean

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The US military has shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean after it drifted off the East Coast.

The order was given by President Joe Biden and came after he earlier told media that Washington would “take care of” the surveillance device.

Media are reporting that recovery efforts are underway to collect the remnants of the balloon which was estimated to be about the size of three school buses.

The Federal Aviation Administration and Coast Guard worked to clear the airspace and water below the balloon as it reached the ocean.

Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the balloon descending toward the water.

US military jets were seen flying in the vicinity and ships were deployed in the water to mount the recovery operation.

Officials were aiming to time the operation so they could recover as much of the debris as possible before it sinks into the ocean.

The Pentagon had previously estimated that any debris field would be substantial.

The balloon was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the coast.

In preparation for the operation, the FAA Administration temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coastline, including the airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. The FAA rerouted air traffic from the area and warned of delays as a result of the flight restrictions.

The Coast Guard advised mariners to immediately leave the area because of US military operations “that present a significant hazard.”

Mr Biden had been inclined to down the balloon over land when he was first briefed on it on Tuesday, but Pentagon officials advised against it, warning that the potential risk to people on the ground outweighed the assessment of potential Chinese intelligence gains.

The public disclosure of the balloon this week prompted the cancellation of a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing scheduled for Sunday for talks aimed at reducing US-China tensions. The Chinese government on Saturday sought to play down the cancellation.

“In actuality, the US and China have never announced any visit, the US making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday morning.

China has continued to claim that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that had been blown off course. The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that it was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational ability.

The balloon was spotted over Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

The Pentagon also acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” it said in a statement.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a question about the second balloon.

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