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US shoots down Chinese ‘spy’ balloon
ANKARA –The US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday which had been spotted above US airspace off the coast of South Carolina for several days already.
An operation is underway to recover debris from the balloon in the Atlantic Ocean.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the decision was made at the direction of US 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),” he said in a statement.
“The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters.”
On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path, the statement further said.
“Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
Biden said his administration “will take care” of the balloon.
The sighting had stirred diplomatic tension, with Washington saying China violated its sovereignty while Beijing regressed the “unintended entry” by a “civilian airship used for research.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had postponed his planned trip to China following the “irresponsible act.”
The United Nations, for its part, has also expressed concern over the tension between the countries over “spy ballon”. Anadolu/Philippine News Agency