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US Air Force shoots down Chinese balloon, draws ire of the CCP

The Pentagon announced on Thursday (February 2) that it was tracking a Chinese spy balloon that was floating high over the United States. The incident accelerated tensions between the two sides.

On Saturday (February 4, US local time) afternoon, an US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, which had become the bone of contention between the two countries.

As per reports, the fighter jet fired an AIM-9X missile at the balloon, which was flying at 65000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South Carolina. The Pentagon informed that the US Navy ships are now recovering the surveillance equipment from the debris, which is reportedly spread over 7 miles.

A video of the incident has now surfaced on social media. While speaking about the matter, US President Joe Biden said, “They decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water. They successfully took it down.”

In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload.”

He further emphasised, “The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters.”

The decision to take down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon did not go down well with Chinese officials, who expressed strong dissatisfaction for supposedly using force against a ‘civilian unmanned airship.’

It must be mentioned that the military action disrupted air travel on the US East Coast. Reportedly, the Federal Aviation Administration shut down airspace in North and South Carolina for several hours, resulting in flight delays at 3 commercial airports.

The Background of the military intervention

The Pentagon announced on Thursday (February 2) that it was tracking a Chinese spy balloon that was floating high over the United States. The incident accelerated tensions between the two sides.

According to defence authorities, the balloon has been monitored for a few days after it entered US territory and began flying at a great height.

It has been traced recently when it passed over Montana, which is home to some of the US’s silo-based nuclear missiles and has been observed using a variety of techniques, including manned planes. Flights from Billings Logan airport were halted on Wednesday out of caution.

Another spy balloon was spotted flying in the skies of Latin America on Friday (February 3). In a statement, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson said, “We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it as another Chinese surveillance balloon.”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Antony Blinken postponed his visit to Beijing in response to a separate high-altitude Chinese balloon intruding into US airspace.

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