A Chinese balloon flies above Charlotte, North Carolina

A Chinese balloon flies above Charlotte, North Carolina on February 4, 2023.

(Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

US Military Shoots Down China's Balloon Off South Carolina Coast

The Associated Press reported that "an operation was underway in U.S. territorial waters to recover debris from the balloon."

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.

As Jake Werner of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft wrote Friday, members of Congress have "used the incident to hype fears about China," citing House China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher's (R-Wis.) claim that the balloon posed "a threat to American sovereignty" and "a threat to the Midwest."

Werner stressed that "foreign surveillance of sensitive U.S. sites is not a new phenomenon," nor is "U.S. surveillance of foreign countries."

"The toxic politics predominating in Washington seems to have convinced the Biden administration to further restrict communications with Beijing by calling off Blinken's trip," Werner added. "Letting war hawks set America's agenda on China can only end in disaster. Conflict is not inevitable, but avoiding a disastrous U.S.-China military confrontation will require tough-minded diplomacy—not disengagement."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.