US shoots down suspected Chinese spy balloon

ANKARA: The United States (US) shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday which had been spotted above US airspace off the coast of South Carolina.

An operation is underway to recover debris from the balloon in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Anadolu Agency.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the decision was made at the direction of US President Biden.

“US fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to China,“ he said in a statement.

“The balloon, which was being used by China in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental US, was brought down above US territorial waters,“ he added.

On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorisation to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path, it said.

The move came after Biden said his administration “will take care” of the balloon.

The sighting had stirred diplomatic tension, with Washington saying China violated its sovereignty while Beijing regressed the “unintended entry” by a “civilian airship used for research.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had postponed his planned trip to China following the “irresponsible act.” – Bernama