Suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down after crossing U.S.

On President Biden's instruction, a U.S. fighter jet shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, according to the Pentagon. This put an end to what senior administration officials claim was an audacious attempt by Beijing to gather information on sensitive American military sites. The government had been monitoring the balloon’s flight over the northern states all week.

The Chinese claimed the balloon for civilian meteorological purposes but strayed off track.

"The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” said Brigadier General Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson said earlier in the week., “The U.S. government, including Norad, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”

According to reports, President Biden wanted to shoot down the balloon while it was still over the U.S., but military advisors advised against it, fearing that debris might injure Americans. Biden said on Wednesday that he ordered the Pentagon to shoot the balloon down as soon as they felt it was feasible.

On Friday, the Pentagon said that it was coordinating with NASA to calculate the debris field. The balloon was the size of three buses and was carrying some type of equipment.

"Why not shoot it down? We have to do the risk-reward here," a senior defense official said on Thursday. "So the first question is, does it pose a threat, a physical kinetic threat, to individuals in the United States in the U.S. homeland? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a threat to civilian aviation? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a significantly enhanced threat on the intelligence side? Our best assessment right now is that it does not. So given that profile, we assess the risk of downing it, even if the probability is low in a sparsely populated area of the debris falling and hurting someone or damaging property, that it wasn't worth it."

An official was even more clear to CNN: “This isn’t like ‘Top Gun’ where it just explodes and doesn’t go anywhere. It’s large and it’s metal, it would put hundreds of Americans at risk.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed his trip to Beijing due to the balloon. This postponement shows a new ratcheting up of tensions between the U.S. and China.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has tweeted that he's requesting a Gang of Eight briefing on the balloon. The Gang of Eight comprises eight Congresspeople who are authorized to hear the most sensitive military and intelligence information. That group would then report back to the full House of Representatives about the situation and the events of the shootdown.

Many on Capitol Hill are questioning why the balloon was not shot down earlier. Senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted, “The Chinese spy balloon made its way completely across our country - Biden doesn’t get to say he acted promptly.” She was joined by nearly every member of the GOP on Twitter and elsewhere talking about dereliction of duty and comparing Biden’s handling of the situation with how Trump would have handled it.

According to a report in Bloomberg, Chinese balloons did fly over the U.S. during the Trump administration. One former Trump official who spoke to Bloomberg said that the balloons, although they belonged to the Chinese, were not shot down. They also weren't as large nor did they have the massive payload that this one did.

A second balloon has been spotted over Latin America, according to U.S. officials.

This is not the first time a balloon has been used for spying, including by the Chinese. Balloons have been spotted over Hawaii and Guam in recent years, including during prior administrations.

Balloons were first used extensively during the US Civil War to spy on enemy troop movements and artillery. They were pivotal during World War I for providing intelligence on enemy activities.

The U.S. uses surveillance balloons around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places. They're even used to monitor the United States' southern border. In 2015, an unmanned surveillance blimp broke free of its moorings in Maryland and drifted over Pennsylvania.

The Pentagon has not released a statement regarding what the Chinese balloon was actually carrying nor what its true purpose was. Now that the United States has the equipment, it shouldn’t be long before we find out exactly what the balloon was really used for.

Image By Palácio do Planalto - 13/11/2019 Declaração à Imprensa, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Bob Peryea
National Correspondent
The Kentucky Daily

You've successfully subscribed to The Kentucky Daily
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to The Kentucky Daily
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Unable to sign you in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.