The United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of the Carolinas

The president’s comments sparked speculation that the United States was planning to shoot down the balloon, which was hovering over North Carolina on an ocean-bound lane, according to local reports. He was first spotted in Montana on Wednesday.

On Saturday afternoon, an FAA spokesperson confirmed that the agency had suspended arrivals and departures at airports in Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Charleston “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort.” A temporary flight restriction was also announced for the region until at least 3:30 p.m. ET.

Later Saturday, Biden smiled and gave reporters a thumbs-up when asked if the United States was going to knock the ball down. He did not respond to further questions about whether he ordered the shooting down or any message he would send to China as he boarded Air Force One at the base of the Hancock Field Air National Guard in New York.

China has denied using the balloon to spy on the United States, saying it was a civilian airship used to monitor the weather that veered off course due to unexpected wind. But the Pentagon has so far warned against shooting down the balloon for fear that falling debris could injure people on the ground.

“The last thing we wanted was for something the size of a school bus to go through the roof of a kindergarten,” a Defense Department official said Friday.

Throughout the week, lawmakers called on Biden to address the potential threat, along with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs the panel that oversees the Pentagon’s budget, calling the balloon a “clear threat” to national security.

“I demand answers from the Biden administration,” Tester said in a statement. “I’m going to bring people before my committee to get real answers about how this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.”

The presence of the balloon has further strained an already strained US-China relationship, and a public shooting down of the ship is unlikely to improve ties. Still, it will help Biden on the domestic political front, where he faces calls, especially from Republicans, to be even tougher on Beijing.

News of the balloon led to a discussion among department and agency heads within the administration about whether to cancel Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned visit to Beijing this weekend. Ultimately, the decision was made to postpone, not cancel, though it’s unclear when Blinken will go now.

“The purpose of the trip was to find a ‘floor’ in the relationship and to explore potential areas of cooperation for mutual benefit,” said a US official familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity. due to the sensitivity of the subject. “It’s hard to do that constructively with a Chinese ball over the United States – that would have dominated all the conversations. It was better to postpone until a better time, and the interagency was fine with that.

Adam Cancryn, Oriana Pawlyk and Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.


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