Chinese Airship Downed off Carolina Coast

US Military Intervenes: Chinese Airship Downed off Carolina Coast


The United States has taken down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that was hovering over sensitive military sites across North America, sparking tensions between Washington and Beijing. On Saturday, a recovery operation was carried out in US territorial waters to retrieve debris from the balloon, which was flying at around 60,000 feet and estimated to be the size of three school buses.

President Joe Biden, when asked about the balloon, told reporters "we’re going to take care of it". The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Coast Guard worked together to clear the airspace and water beneath the balloon as it reached the ocean. Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the balloon descending into the water. US military jets were seen flying nearby and ships were deployed in the water to mount the recovery operation.

Officials aimed to recover as much of the debris as possible before it sank into the ocean. The Pentagon had previously estimated that any debris field would be substantial. In preparation for the operation, the FAA temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coastline, including the airports in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Wilmington, North Carolina. The Coast Guard also advised mariners to immediately leave the area due to US military operations "that present a significant hazard".

Initially, Biden was inclined to bring down the balloon over land when he was first briefed on it earlier in the week. However, Pentagon officials advised against it, warning that the potential risk to people on the ground outweighed the potential Chinese intelligence gains.

The situation became controversial on Thursday when American officials reported tracking a large Chinese "surveillance balloon" in US skies but decided not to shoot it down for fear of causing harm to people or property on the ground. This led to Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelling a rare trip to Beijing on Friday.

After initial denial, Beijing admitted ownership of the "airship" and said it was a weather balloon that had been blown off course. China's foreign ministry issued a statement saying, "The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure."

The balloon had flown over parts of the northwestern United States that are home to sensitive airbases and strategic nuclear missiles in underground silos, raising further concerns. The Pentagon also reported another suspected Chinese spy balloon was seen over Latin America.

This incident has further escalated tensions between the two nations, which are already strained over issues such as human rights, trade, and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The United States has been increasingly concerned about China's military and technological advancements, and this latest incident has only added to those fears.

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