CNN

US military has shot down the Chinese spy balloon off US East Coast, US official says

Feb 4, 2023, 12:54 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2023, 1:06 pm

A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, U.S. February 1, 2023, in this picture obtained ...

A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, U.S. February 1, 2023, in this picture obtained from social media. Chase Doak/via REUTERS

(CNN) — The US military has shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, a US official said Saturday.

The spy balloon was first spotted in the sky over Montana earlier this week and traveled across the middle of the country following weather patterns before it exited the continental United States on Saturday.

Prior to the balloon being shot down, the Federal Aviation Administration had issued a ground stop for airports in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Charleston and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. The FAA also restricted airspace near Myrtle Beach “to support the Defense Department in a national security effort.”

Top military officials had advised against shooting down the balloon while over the continental US because of the risk the debris could pose to civilians and property on the ground, but officials had maintained that all options remained on the table.

Earlier Saturday, President Joe Biden had told reporters in Syracuse, New York, that his administration was “gonna take care” of the suspected Chinese spy balloon when asked by CNN if the US would shoot it down. He had been discussing options with top military officials since first being briefed on the balloon on Tuesday.

On Friday, the Pentagon said the balloon did not pose a military or physical threat. A defense official told CNN that US Northern Command was coordinating with NASA to determine the debris field if the balloon was to be shot down.

China’s Foreign Ministry has said the balloon entered US airspace by accident. But the State Department has said the presence of the balloon in US airspace was “a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable that this has occurred.”

The discovery of the balloon prompted US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to postpone his highly anticipated diplomatic visit to China, saying the incident “created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip.”

This story and headline have been updated.

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US military has shot down the Chinese spy balloon off US East Coast, US official says