The Pentagon said the US military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday afternoon, while China called the downing an overreaction.

“On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be completed without putting American lives in jeopardy,” said US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in a statement.

According to Austin, military commanders determined that “due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload, downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area.”

President Biden told reporters on Saturday that he issued the order on Wednesday. Officials in the United States “said to me, ‘Let’s wait until the safest place to do it,'” he said. “They successfully brought it down, and I want to thank our aviators who did it,” Biden added.

The downing occurred shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it had “paused departures and arrivals from” three East Coast airports — Wilmington, North Carolina, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina — “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort.” Shortly after 3 p.m., flights through these airports resumed. China responds with “dissatisfaction and protest” Both US and Chinese officials have provided contradictory information about the balloon’s purpose.

According to the Chinese government, the balloon is strictly used for meteorological research and erroneously entered US airspace. On Saturday, China’s foreign ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and protest” over the United States’ “use of force to attack a civilian unmanned airship.” The shooting down was described as a “obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practise.”


According to the Pentagon, the balloon was used for surveillance. Its presence has already prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a historic trip to Beijing, as tensions between the two countries over national security continue to rise.

US officials decided earlier this week not to shoot down the balloon after the Biden administration stated that it did not pose a national security threat. On Friday, the Pentagon reported that a second Chinese balloon could be seen floating over Latin America. Colombia’s Air Force reported on Saturday that a balloon-like object had passed through its airspace on Friday.

As meteorologists, storm chasers, and others shared sightings on social media, the balloon travelling across the United States quickly became an internet celebrity.

Others chastised the Biden administration for failing to intervene sooner.

“The China balloon flying over the United States is a direct assault on our national sovereignty,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet on Friday. “Biden’s refusal to do so is a breach of duty. Biden has no regard for our national security or sovereignty, from flying balloons to open borders.”


South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott said it was downed on Saturday “It should have been shot down before crossing the continental US, not after. We still don’t know what data was gathered or where it was sent “He stated. “This was a failure on Biden’s part, and let us hope the American people don’t pay the price.”

Austin praised Biden for shooting down the balloon. The Canadian government assisted in the “tracking and analysis of the balloon,” according to Austin.


“Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always prioritise the safety and security of the American people while effectively responding to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he said in a statement statement.

People reported seeing the balloon on social media on Saturday.

Earlier, the York County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina tweeted that the balloon was more than 60,000 feet in the air and urged people not to take matters into their own hands.

“Don’t try to shoot it!!” said the office on Twitter. “It will not be reached by your rifle rounds. Be accountable. Everything that goes up must come down, including your bullets.”

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