US fighter jet shoots down Chinese balloon off SC coast
The United States finally manages to bring down the Chinese balloon after it spent two days hovering over the country.
A US fighter jet successfully brought down the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon in the US territorial waters off the coast of South Carolina, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday.
"This afternoon, at the direction of 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) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in US airspace," Austin said in a statement.
According to the Defense Secretary, the balloon had been used by China in efforts to "surveil strategic sites" in the US.
⚡️What appears to be a proximity triggered missile was fired from an F-22 raptor in order to shoot down the Chinese Balloon. pic.twitter.com/7blNYjPkIK— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) February 4, 2023
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday gave his authorization to neutralize the balloon as soon as the operation could be carried out "without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path," according to the statement.
CNN had reported earlier on Saturday that the Chinese balloon detected over the United States, which Beijing is saying is to serve civilian purposes related to meteorology, might have left the East Coast later on in the day.
According to a weather model of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the high-altitude balloon could exit the United States East Coast "as early as Saturday morning."
In light of the accidental entry of a Chinese unmanned airship into US airspace on Friday, Beijing's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said via a spokesperson that China regretted the unintended breach of US airspace.
The spokesperson said that the device had strayed away from its planned course due to force majeure.
This came ahead of a scheduled visit to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken intended to ease the tensions between the two countries.
The Financial Times reported that Blinken canceled his trip to Beijing over the incident, hours before he was supposed to depart for China.
Later on, the Pentagon said the Chinese research balloon that accidentally breached US airspace on Thursday poses no threat to people on the ground.
Ryder told a press conference that the balloon was a surveillance balloon, adding, "We do assess at this time that it does not pose a physical threat to people on the ground."
The balloon was expected to hover over the United States for several more days, according to the Pentagon.