President Biden said the US fighter used a missile to shoot down the Chinese balloon as it flew off the coast of South Carolina.
“We brought it down successfully, and I want to commend the pilots for that,” President Joe Biden said on February 4.
A senior US military official said that an F-22 fighter jet from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia brought down the balloon at 2:39 p.m. on February 4 (2:39 a.m. February 5, Hanoi time). an AIM-9X air-to-air missile.
The airship was shot down more than 11 kilometers off the US coast over relatively shallow waters, making it easier to collect debris in the coming days.
Biden ordered the airship to be shot down on February 1, but the Pentagon recommends waiting until it can be done over water to ensure civilians are not in danger of falling debris. land.
The shooting happened after the US government ordered the suspension of flights to and from three airports in South Carolina, including Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Charleston, citing “national security efforts” but did not reveal details. Flights resumed on the afternoon of February 4.
The balloon was detected entering US airspace on January 28 before moving into Canadian airspace on January 30. It then returned to US airspace on January 31, according to a US defense official. American officials did not publicly disclose the presence of the balloon until February 2.
Washington said it was a spy balloon, calling it a “clear violation” of US sovereignty and notified Beijing of the February 4 downing. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the balloons were being used by China “to try to spy on strategic locations in the US”. However, the Biden administration considers the device to have “limited value” in intelligence gathering, yielding no data that is different from images from reconnaissance satellites in orbit.
China’s foreign ministry said the arrival of the balloon in the US was a “force majeure accident” and that Beijing “never violated the territory and airspace of any sovereign country”. The agency said it was a civilian airship for meteorological research and other scientific activities. At the same time, Beijing accused US politicians and media of “taking advantage of the ballooning incident” into US territory to “discredit” Beijing.
But the Pentagon considers the balloon to be the latest in a string of spy balloon operations that China has conducted around the globe. On February 3, the US said another Chinese airship was flying over Latin America.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the postponement of a visit to China, which was scheduled for this weekend, after the balloon incident. The move is seen as a blow to those who see it as an opportunity to stabilize the increasingly fractured relationship between the two countries.
Thanh Tam (Theo Reuters)