Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Ramadan 3, 1444 H
clear sky
23°C / 23°C

US fighter jet shoots down suspected spy balloon

China slams US for shooting down a Chinese aircraft labelling the move as an ‘obvious overreaction’
No Image

SURFSIDE BEACH: China has slammed the US for shooting down a Chinese aircraft that officials suspected was a surveillance Balloon above US territorial waters, labelling the move as an “obvious overreaction.”

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday confirmed that the US military had shot down a “high altitude surveillance Balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China” in US airspace off the coast of South Carolina.

On Sunday, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing expressed China’s “strong dissatisfaction” over the “use of force” in bringing down the Balloon.

President Joe Biden said he had issued an order on Wednesday to take down the balloon, but the Pentagon had recommended waiting until it could be done over open water to safeguard civilians from debris crashing to Earth from thousands of feet above commercial air traffic.

“They successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” Biden said. Multiple fighter and refueling aircraft were involved in the mission, but only one -- an F-22 fighter jet from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia -- took the shot at 2:39 pm, using a single AIM-9X supersonic, heat-seeking, air-to-air missile, a senior US military official said.

China strongly condemned the military strike on an airship that it says was used for meteorological and other scientific purposes, and which it said had strayed into US airspace “completely accidentally” -- claims flatly dismissed by US officials.

“China had clearly asked the US to handle this properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “The US had insisted on using force, obviously overreacting.”

No Image

The balloon was shot down about six nautical miles off the US coast of the Atlantic Ocean, over relatively shallow water, potentially aiding efforts to recover elements of the Chinese surveillance equipment over the coming days, US officials said.

One US military official said the debris field was spread out over seven miles of ocean, and multiple US military vessels were on site.

The downing of the balloon came shortly after the US government ordered a halt to flights in and out of three airports in South Carolina -- Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Charleston -- due to what it said at the time was an undisclosed “national security effort.” Flights resumed on Saturday afternoon.

While Saturday’s shootdown concludes the military dimension to the spying saga, Biden is likely to continue to face intense political scrutiny from Republican opponents in Congress who argue he failed to act quickly enough.

A senior administration official said after shooting down the balloon, the US government spoke directly with China about the action. The State Department also briefed allies and partners around the world, the official said.

Questions remain about how much information China may have gathered during the balloon’s trek across the United States.

The balloon entered US airspace in Alaska on January 28 before moving into Canadian airspace on January 30. It then re-entered US airspace over northern Idaho on Jan. 31, a US defence official said. Once it crossed over US land, it did not return to open waters, making a shootdown difficult. — Reuters

arrow up
home icon