The US Department of Defense confirmed that its fighter jets brought down a giant Chinese balloon in US territorial waters over suspicions that it was spying on military sites across America. The balloon was shot down using an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile from an F-22 fighter jet. The Chinese foreign ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US’s use of force,” but the US defense official stated that the balloon’s overflight was of intelligence value and valuable for study. President Biden was under pressure to shoot down the balloon, which he later congratulated the aviators for doing so. The discovery of the balloon led to a diplomatic crisis, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelling his trip to China. China maintained that the airship was a weather ship blown astray and not a spying aircraft. Taiwan’s foreign ministry called China’s actions a violation of international law and sovereignty, while President Biden approved the plan to shoot down the balloon after it was determined that it would pose no risk to people on the ground.
An eyewitness on the coast, Hayley Walsh, told BBC News she saw three fighter jets circling before the missile was fired, then “we heard a huge boom, the house shook”.
China has called for a calm response to the dispute over a giant Chinese balloon that is heading for the eastern US. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has cancelled a planned visit to Beijing, calling the presence of the “surveillance” balloon “an irresponsible act.” A second Chinese balloon has reportedly been spotted floating over Latin America. China claims the balloon in the US was a weather airship that was blown off course and says it regrets the incident. The US has decided not to shoot the balloon down due to the risk of falling debris. Relations between the US and China have been strained by the incident, with the Pentagon calling it an “unacceptable violation” of US sovereignty. China has accused “some politicians and media in the United States” of using the incident to attack and smear China. A second balloon was reportedly spotted over Latin America, with sightings in Costa Rica and Venezuela. Colombia’s Air Force detected an object, believed to be a balloon, in the country’s airspace and followed it until it left the airspace without any threat to national security. China has not yet commented on the second balloon.