Republican lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to turn his attention to security concerns over China-backed social media app TikTok after the US military shot down a “spy balloon” from Beijing on Saturday.
The suspected surveillance device was shot down by American warplanes off the coast of South Carolina after crossing several US states at an altitude low enough to be seen with the naked eye – alarming millions across the country.
The Air Force said Saturday it was now beginning a “recovery operation” for the fallen debris, which is expected to be “fairly easy” given the shallow water in which it landed.
Florida’s hotheaded Rep. Matt Gaetz led the GOP response last night calling for continued crackdown on China.
“Now blast TikTok,” he wrote on Twitter.
In this photo provided by Chad Fish, the remains of a large balloon floats over the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, with a fighter jet and its contrail below, Saturday, February 4, 2023. The launch of the suspected Chinese spy balloon by a missile An F-22 fighter jet caused a spectacle over one of the state’s tourism hubs, drawing crowds who reacted with a mixture of puzzled looks, despair and cheers
Officials said the first spy balloon to fly over the United States crashed into about 47-foot-deep water six miles off the South Carolina coast. They noted that a suitable salvage vessel will not be on site for days as the race to secure the wreck is on
Beijing’s government said Sunday afternoon local time that the US response to the balloon was an “overreaction” and threatened a “similar” situation if American surveillance devices were detected in Chinese airspace.
Rep. Mike Flood of Nebraska said on Twitter after the balloon was shot down, “The CCP continues to expand its surveillance operations beyond its limits. First it was TikTok and Huawei. Now it’s floating balloons to spy on Americans in full view.
“The Biden administration is projecting weakness by dragging their plans to halt their plans. America is at a crossroads and it’s time to draw a line in the sand: We will not allow the CCP to monitor, spy on, or collect data from Americans,” Flood said.
While the balloon has fueled fresh fears of China’s surveillance power in recent days, calls for a crackdown on TikTok have echoed on both sides of the aisle since the Trump administration.
US intelligence agencies have raised national security concerns about TikTok, citing the Chinese government’s ability to track user data and influence millions who use the app every day.
The company has publicly denied such allegations, claiming that it stores American users’ data in Virginia with a backup in Singapore.
Beijing’s Chinese Communist Party owns part of TikTok parent company Bytedance.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney said on Friday: “One big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let’s take them all out.”
South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan compared the app to the recently shot-down spy balloon on Saturday morning and accused Biden of failing to fight back against either — although his post came hours before the alleged spy device was shot down.
An F-22 Raptor fighter jet fired a single AIM-9X missile to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon and its payload, which was equipped with cameras, sensors and radars
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz led the GOP response Saturday night, urging President Biden to act now against another suspected Chinese spy device, TikTok
The president told reporters Saturday that he ordered the balloon launched mid-last week
Meanwhile, China says it “reserves the right” to respond similarly if such a situation arises in its airspace
Utah Senator Mitt Romney said on Friday: “One big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let’s turn them all off’
“The Chinese balloon is just a ‘weather balloon’, just like TikTok is just a ‘social media app,'” he said, referring to Beijing’s statements.
“Both have nefarious intentions, are controlled by the CCP and should not be allowed to operate in the US. Biden is either too weak, too compromised, or too incompetent to hold his own against China.
Florida Senator Rick Scott shared a message with Americans at home: “If you don’t like the idea of communist China flying a surveillance balloon over your neighborhood, then why give the CCP direct access to you and your family.” grant?”
“Every time you come on TikTok, that’s exactly what happens. Protect your family and delete them ASAP,” Scott said Friday.
Meanwhile, the US military said it was beginning to collect the remains of the Chinese “spy balloon” it shot down on Saturday afternoon.
“There are a number of US Navy and Coast Guard vessels that are establishing a security perimeter around the area where the balloon landed,” the Air Force said in a statement.
Defense officials estimated the balloon was about the size of three buses at 120 feet and that the debris field would be substantial, estimated at seven miles, when it was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday
“They’re looking for debris,” said a senior military official, also speaking in the background.
The statement added: “There is no estimate of how long the salvage mission will take, the military official said, but the fact that it landed in such a flat area should make a salvage ‘fairly easy’.”
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN on Sunday that it fell into a seven-mile stretch of debris in the Atlantic.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has criticized the US launch of the balloon as an “overreaction”.
“The US used force to attack our civilian UAV, which is an apparent overreaction,” China’s foreign ministry said.
“We solemnly protest against this step by the US side.”
Beijing warned it “reserves the right to use any means necessary to deal with similar situations.”