A 200-feet tall balloon sent out of Beijing to survey airspace with ‘sensitive military facilities’ was recently shot down. Questions concerning why it was occupying U.S. airspace and the strength of the Biden administration’s response and plans of action continue to stir.
At the onset, the surveillance craft first hovered over Alaskan airspace Jan. 28 which the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) sent a report the day prior about an aircraft traveling towards U.S. airspace.
The balloon was deemed a non-urgent matter and rather than taking immediate action, government officials chose instead to observe the object since officials believed it was part of a known and approved Chinese military surveillance operation. In any endeavor, the Office of the President was not debriefed on the situation at the time.
After floating over Alaskan airspace, the balloon occupied Canadian airspace, then promptly shifted south and entered the U.S. mainland airspace on Jan. 31 and was spotted in Montana by the public. Department officials’ speculation arose regarding the purpose of the balloon and its possible aims to spy on the U.S. because of its lingering over airspace occupied by military facilities. The Biden administration was informed, and the president gave orders to shoot the surveillance balloon down.
“When one of these high-altitude surveillance balloons entered our airspace over the continental United States earlier in the month, I gave the order to shoot it down as soon as it would be safe to do so. The military advised against shooting it down over land because of the sheer size of it. It was the size of multiple school buses, and it posed a risk to people on the ground if it was shot down where people lived,” Biden said at a press briefing.
After waiting for the surveillance balloon to hover over water, it was shot down by a U-2 spy plane of the U.S. Air Force on Feb. 4 and landed on the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after being in North America for seven days.
“We waited until it was safely over water, which would not only protect civilians but also enable us to recover substantial components for further analytics. And then we shot it down, sending a clear message — clear message: The violation of our sovereignty is unacceptable,” Biden explained.
Josiah Washington, a Howard University freshman student, believed actions taken by the U.S. government were uncalled for.
“I think it was blown out of proportion. I think that there is agenda to be ‘Anti-Chinese,’ and one of the ways the government is trying to push the ‘Anti-Chinese’ agenda and villainize them by saying they are spying on us or trying to undermine us,” Washington said.
Regarding the purpose of the Chinese surveillance balloon, Beijing insisted it was a civilian spacecraft for scientific research and studies. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, even acknowledged how the U.S. previously had ten unlawful aircraft hovering over Chinese soil.
“It’s not uncommon for US balloons to illegally enter other countries’ airspace. Since the beginning of last year, US high-altitude balloons have flown into China’s airspace more than ten times without Chinese authorization,” Spokesperson Wenbin said at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China’s press conference.
The advantages of the surveillance aircraft capture are still being investigated, and the debris from the ocean was sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia for further analysis and evaluation.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith