It was a dramatic week for the United States and China, as the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had been traversing the country for five days. The balloon had moved off the coast by midday Saturday and was over the Atlantic Ocean when President Biden gave the order to shoot it down. This incident sparked a diplomatic crisis between the two great powers, and the Federal Aviation Administration had paused departures and arrivals at airports in Wilmington, N.C., and in Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina to support the Department of Defense.
The balloon had entered the continental American airspace near Idaho on Jan. 28, and the Pentagon was alerted by the balloon’s presence. By Wednesday, the balloon was hovering over Montana, and a full-blown diplomatic crisis was underway. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s planned visit to China was canceled due to the balloon’s presence. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the machine was a weather balloon that had strayed off course and entered U.S. airspace by accident. However, the U.S. government believed it was a spy balloon and a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law.
The Pentagon advised against shooting down the balloon while it was over land due to the possibility of harm to civilians and infrastructure. However, the arrival and extended stay of the balloon over American territory prompted furious calls from senior U.S. officials to their Chinese counterparts. Republican lawmakers and politicians began criticizing President Biden for not taking harder action against the balloon and against China, and some demanded that Mr. Blinken cancel his trip.
On Saturday, President Biden ordered the military to shoot down the balloon, and the U.S. officials are now watching closely for China’s reaction to the downing of the balloon — and whether the Chinese military will retaliate against an American asset. This incident has highlighted the risks of accidents or miscalculation, as well as “the role of domestic politics in American debates about China — and the role of Congress in interpreting Chinese strategic intentions, including by constraining the administration’s options.”
The recent drama between the United States and China over the spy balloon has been an intense one, and the world is now waiting to see how the Chinese will respond. It is clear that the United States will not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty, and the consequences of this incident may be far-reaching.