The United States military shot down a Chinese balloon off the South Carolina coast on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
“An operation was underway in U.S. territorial waters to recover debris from the balloon, which had been flying at about 60,000 feet and estimated to be about the size of three school buses,” AP reported. “Before the downing, President Joe Biden had said earlier Saturday, ‘We’re going to take care of it,’ when asked by reporters about the balloon. The Federal Aviation Administration and Coast Guard worked to clear the airspace and water below.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed in a statement that “at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command” successfully downed the balloon “off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace.”
The U.S. has said it believes the high-altitude balloon was a part of a surveillance operation, something China has denied.
“The airship is from China,” a spokesperson for the country’s foreign ministry said Friday. “It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure. The Chinese side will continue communicating with the U.S. side and properly handle this unexpected situation.”
The U.S. first detected the balloon over the state of Montana earlier in the week, leading Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel his planned trip to China as tensions between the two countries continue to rise.
Originally published at Commondreams.org.