Republicans have expressed outrage at the Biden administration’s lack of transparency with the American public about the Chinese surveillance balloon that has been hovering over the United States for days.
The inflatable drone’s existence was first confirmed Thursday, as the Billings Gazette reported on it, after being sighted over Montana, home of one of the US military’s three nuclear missile silos.
A later report by Bloomberg revealed that the President was made aware of the balloon and its dangerous threat on January 28.
The decision to keep the story under wraps as officials feared the hysteria caused by the balloon would derail Foreign Minister Antony Blinken’s upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The decision to keep the story under wraps as officials feared the hysteria caused by the balloon would derail Foreign Minister Antony Blinken’s upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping
The balloon was shot down while crossing North Carolina on Saturday. An operation was underway in US territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean to recover debris from the balloon, which had flown at about 60,000 feet and was estimated to be about the size of three school buses.
Republican MP Nicole Malliotakis told : “Communist China’s surveillance balloon violates international law and threatens our homeland. It is an outrage that the Biden administration spotted this balloon days ago flying over the Aleutian Islands and did nothing about it.
The recently re-elected congresswoman added, “The President has not even commented on this unacceptable act of CCP aggression.
“Whether it’s our border or our airspace, Congress must take action to protect it because it’s clear this President won’t do it,” she continued.
While the GOP Twitter account of the House Judiciary tweeted, “Joe Biden knew the Chinese spy balloon was coming. Tried to hide it from the American people. Let it fly over the ENTIRE COUNTRY.’
The message added: “And only after the whole country asked him to act, our great military shot it down. Awkward. Gruesome. Sad.’
President Joe Biden was told about the balloon on Jan. 28 but waited a week before acting
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken was due to travel to Beijing for talks with the Chinese President on Friday
On Friday, Blinken canceled his trip to China at the last minute. In statements about the balloon, the Secretary of State called it an “irresponsible act” and called it a “clear violation of US sovereignty and international law.”
Blinken, who was due to leave Washington for Beijing late Friday, said he told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon through the US was “an irresponsible act and[China’s]decision to allow that measure.” seize the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions we were prepared to engage in.’
Officially, the Pentagon has designated the balloon as an intelligence-gathering device.
The Chinese government tried to downplay the cancellation on Saturday.
“In fact, the US and China have never announced a visit, the US’s announcement is their own business and we respect that,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday morning.
China continues to claim that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that went off course.
The Pentagon flatly denied that — as did China’s claim that it is not used for surveillance and has limited navigational capabilities.
Biden had told reporters earlier Saturday that “we’ll take care of it” when asked about the balloon.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard worked to clean up the airspace and water beneath the balloon as it reached the ocean.
Television footage showed a small explosion followed by the balloon’s descent towards the water. US military jets were spotted nearby, and ships were deployed in the water to conduct the salvage operation.
Officials wanted to time the operation so they could recover as much of the debris as possible before it sank into the ocean. The Pentagon previously estimated that any debris field would be significant.
The balloon was spotted over the Carolinas Saturday morning as it neared the coast.
In preparation for the operation, the FAA administration temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coast, including airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina.
The FAA diverted air traffic out of the area and warned of delays due to flight restrictions.
In preparation for the operation, the FAA administration temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coast, including airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina
The Chinese government’s official line is that the balloon is a weather research device
The Coast Guard advised seafarers to leave the area immediately because of US military operations “which pose a significant threat.”
Biden had been inclined to dismantle the balloon overland when he was first briefed Tuesday, but Pentagon officials advised against it, warning that the potential risk to people on the ground outweighed any assessment of potential Chinese intelligence gains.
The Pentagon also confirmed reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now understand that this is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.
Uncensored reactions on the Chinese internet reflected the government’s official stance that the US was playing up the situation.
Some used it as an opportunity to poke fun at the US defense, saying it couldn’t even defend itself against a balloon, and nationalist influencers jumped on to use the news to mock the US.
China has denied any allegations of espionage, saying it is a civil-use balloon intended for meteorological research.
The State Department stressed that the balloon’s travel was beyond its control and urged the US not to “smear” it because of the balloon.