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U.S shot down suspected Chinese spy balloon

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The United States has shot down a Chinese spy balloon that was allegedly snooping on military installations around the country. 

The Department of Defense announced that its fighter jets shot down the balloon above U.S. territory. 

Later, China’s foreign ministry expressed “deep discontent and protested against the United States’ use of force to target civilian unmanned aircraft.” 

The balloon fell into the ocean after a tiny explosion, as captured by U.S. television networks. 

At 14:39 EST (19:39 GMT), an F-22 jet fighter fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the high-altitude balloon, causing it to crash six nautical miles off the U.S. coast, according to a defense official. 

According to defense sources who spoke to U.S. media, the debris landed in shallower water than planned near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

The military is attempting to retrieve seven miles of scattered debris (11km). Two naval vessels, one of which is equipped with a large crane for salvage, are in the region. 

A senior U.S. defense official stated in a Pentagon statement, “although we took all precautions to prevent the PRC [China] surveillance balloon from collecting sensitive material, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us. 

Since Thursday, when defense authorities initially disclosed tracking it, U.S. President Joe Biden had been pressured to shoot it down.  A few hours later, the Chinese foreign ministry issued the following statement: “The Chinese side has repeatedly notified the U.S. side, after verification, that the airship is for civilian use and entered the United States due to force majeure – it was an accident.” 

The discovery of the balloon precipitated a diplomatic crisis, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceling this weekend’s trip to China in response to the “reckless act.” The Chinese government has denied that an aircraft is a surveillance plane, claiming it is a weather ship blown off course. 

In response to the event, Taiwan’s foreign ministry issued the following statement: “A civilized international community cannot tolerate the Chinese Communist Party government’s activities that violate international law and violate the airspace and sovereignty of other countries.” 

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province that will fall under Beijing’s sovereignty. President Xi Jinping has not ruled out the use of force to accomplish this objective. However, Taiwan considers itself independent, having its constitution and freely chosen authorities. 

President Biden first approved the plan to shoot down the balloon on Wednesday, but the Pentagon said it would wait until the device was over water to avoid putting civilians on land in danger. 

As part of a “national security endeavor,” the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporarily halted all civilian flights at three airports along the South Carolina coast on Saturday afternoon, laying the groundwork for the operation. 

The coast guard also warned ships to evacuate the region due to “very hazardous” military actions.  Officials from the Department of Defense disclosed on Saturday that the balloon entered American territory on 28 Jan. 2023 near the Aleutian Islands, then moved to Canadian airspace for three days, and then returned to American airspace on 31 Jan. The U.S. state of Montana is home to several critical nuclear missile bases, where the item was sighted. 

The event has worsened relations between China and the United States, with the Pentagon labeling it an “unacceptable infringement” of U.S. sovereignty. 

Mr. Blinken, America’s top diplomat, told Beijing it was an “irresponsible act” before his now-canceled trip on February 5-6, which would have been the first high-level US-China encounter in years. However, China attempted to downplay the cancellation of his visit, claiming in a statement released on Saturday that neither party had formally announced a travel plan. 

China’s foreign ministry stated that Beijing “would not accept any baseless speculation or hyperbole.” It accused “some politicians and media outlets in the United States” of using the incident “as an excuse to criticize and slander China.” 

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