The US lowers a Chinese balloon over the ocean and attempts to recover debris

(NewsNation) – The United States shot down a Chinese balloon off the coast of Carolina and its debris is now being recovered.

The balloon, which the Pentagon said was being used by China for surveillance, was shot down by a US plane around 2:05 p.m. EST, a military intelligence source told NewsNation.

Earlier that day, the US temporarily restricted airspace over the area in preparation for the operation.

On Twitter is the Federal Flight Administration said it has halted departures and arrivals to airports in the Carolinas — Wilmington, Myrtle Beach International and Charleston International — “to assist the Department of Defense with national security efforts.”

The FAA, warning of delays due to flight restrictions, diverted air traffic out of the area.

President Joe Biden said earlier Saturday that officials would attend to the balloon that has been hovering over the United States for days.

At the time, four US officials, on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press the Biden administration was considering a plan to launch the balloon by launching it once it’s over the Atlantic, where the remains could potentially be recovered.

China claims the balloon was just a weather research “airship” that went off course — but the Pentagon has denied that. Defense officials say the balloon was actually used for surveillance.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was originally due to travel to Beijing on Sunday for talks on reducing tensions between the US and China. This was abruptly cut short in view of the balloon.

China downplayed this cancellation in a statement on Saturday morning.

“In fact, the US and China have never announced a visit, the US making such an announcement is their own business and we respect that,” China’s foreign ministry said.

Some conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, had proposed shoot earlier. However, Biden, on advice from his defense team, had previously decided not to do so because falling debris could pose a danger to local residents.

“Currently, we believe this balloon has limited added value from a collective intelligence collection perspective,” an official said This was announced by the US Department of Defense in an earlier statement. “But we are still taking steps to protect ourselves from the collection of sensitive information by foreign intelligence agencies.”

However, retired Maj. Gen. Larry Stutzriem, director of research at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, argued to NewsNation’s Leland Vittert that the alleged Chinese spy balloon was so close to land that it was capturing much clearer images than a satellite ever could.

“There was a statement from the Pentagon about, ‘Hey, the Chinese could get this all by satellite.’ Well no. The satellites are about 350 miles up,” he said. “This thing is about 12 miles away, and you can see cat whiskers from this balloon if it’s properly instrumented.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. The US lowers a Chinese balloon over the ocean and attempts to recover debris

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