This week, the United States military shot down a large Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina after it had been flying across U.S. airspace for several days. The balloon, estimated to be the size of three buses, was traveling at an altitude of 60,000 feet, and its presence in U.S. airspace has caused a stir among lawmakers and the Biden administration.
President Biden said he had ordered the military to shoot down the balloon “as soon as possible” after he was briefed on the matter on Wednesday. National security officials had warned Biden that the best time to do so was when the balloon was over water, due to safety concerns associated with shooting it down over land. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoed Biden’s claims, saying the action was taken “to put the safety and security of the American people first.”
However, Republican lawmakers have criticized Biden for not acting sooner, calling the administration’s response an “embarrassing display of weakness.” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the administration should have taken care of the balloon before it became a national security threat, while Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) accused the Biden administration of attempting to “hide this national security failure from Congress and the American people.”
China acknowledged on Friday that the balloon was one of its own, but claimed that it was primarily used for meteorological research and had been blown off course. However, the Biden administration and lawmakers have maintained that the balloon was surveilling “strategic sites” in the U.S. and have postponed Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing over the “unacceptable” presence of the balloon in U.S. airspace.
The U.S. military’s decision to shoot down the Chinese surveillance balloon has sparked a heated debate among lawmakers and the Biden administration over the safety and security of the American people. It’s clear that the U.S. will not tolerate the presence of foreign surveillance aircraft in its airspace, and the Biden administration is taking steps to ensure that this doesn’t happen again in the future.