The US military, on President Joe Biden’s direction, shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast – at Surfside Beach – on Sunday, officials confirmed. Several videos of a fighter craft downing the alleged surveillance tool circulated on social media.
“They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” Biden said after getting off Air Force One en route to Camp David. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in a statement said that the US Northern Command successfully brought down the balloon, adding that it was being used by the People’s Republic of China “to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.”
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However, several social media users are now questioning if Biden knew about the balloon several days in advance and chose to keep it a secret. Bloomberg reported that the administration was aware of the spy balloon as soon as it had entered American airspace on January 28, if not beforehand. The report added that the President covered up the balloon as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to take a trip to China.
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“As it turns out, US authorities were well aware of the unidentified object that had entered American airspace on Jan. 28, that had then left and re-entered over North Idaho on Tuesday. But with such a high-profile trip at stake, keeping it on the down-low was key. By the time the thing became visible in Montana, President Joe Biden had already been briefed and the White House was scrambling to decide whether to blast it from the sky,” the report read.
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“The gravity of the situation was only exacerbated by Montana being home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, which houses a large portion of the US’s Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
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Blinken, who was scheduled to depart for Beijing Friday night, indefinitely postponed his trip. He told China’s director of Central Foreign Affairs Office, Wang Yi, in a phone call that the balloon was an “irresponsible act and a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law that undermined the purpose of the trip,” according to a readout of the discussion.