US President Joe Biden said that the mission to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the East Coast on Saturday has been successful. After arriving at Camp David from Syracuse, Biden said that he had ordered the Pentagon to shoot down the balloon “as soon as possible.”
“On Wednesday when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible,” Biden said.
He further added, “They decided, without doing damage to anyone on the ground, they decided that the best time to do that was as it got over water….within a 12-mile limit. They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” according to CNN.
The balloon was first spotted in the sky over Montana earlier this week, according to CNN. In response to a question on whether his national security team had recommended taking down the balloon, Biden stated, “I told them to shoot it down. They said to me, Let’s wait for the safest place,” as per the news report.
After extending a ground stop at three airports in North and South Carolina, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a statement announced the resumption of flights to and from the airports in the region. Earlier, the FAA had issued a ground stop for three airports in North Carolina, South Carolina and Myrtle Beach.
“Flights to and from Wilmington (ILM), Myrtle Beach International (MYR) and Charleston International (CHS) airports are resuming. Other airspace has been reopened. Normal operations resuming,” CNN quoted FAA as saying.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin in a statement on Saturday (local time) said that US fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command successfully shot down the high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to China over the water off the coast of South Carolina in US airspace. He said that the balloon which was used by China in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental US was shot down above US territorial waters.
“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 U.S. airspace,” Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
He further said, “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.”
Austin said that US President Joe Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon “as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.”
Furthermore, he said that US military commanders determined that downing the balloon over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area. According to Biden’s orders, the Department of Defence after careful analysis created options to shoot down the balloon safely over US territorial waters while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities, Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
“This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government. And we thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through NORAD as it transited North America,” Lloyd Austin said.
“Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he added.
Earlier, Biden said that his administration will “take care” of the suspected Chinese spy balloon, as per the news report. He made the remarks at an airfield in Syracuse in New York, where he is visiting a family. When questioned whether he would shoot down the balloon, Biden said, “We’re gonna take care of it,” according to CNN.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said that the balloon entered US airspace by accident, as per the news report. However, the US State Department called the presence of the balloon in US territory a “clear violation” of their sovereignty and international law. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also postponed his visit to China after the balloon was spotted in the United States.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)