Chinese Spy Balloon Shot Down Over Atlantic

The Biden administration shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance ballon on Saturday afternoon after it flew across the U.S. this week.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closed down airspace over parts of North Carolina and South Carolina Saturday amid reports that the Biden administration was considering shooting down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that flew across the U.S. this week.

President Joe Biden had faced calls to shoot down the balloon ever since it was first spotted hovering over Montana on Wednesday. However, national security officials had declined to do so, citing concerns that the risk to civilians on the ground from debris outweighs the potential surveillance China could obtain.

On Saturday, as the balloon was spotted over the Carolinas, the FAA ordered all planes in the area to be grounded after the Associated Press reported that Biden was considering a plan to shoot out the balloon as it approached the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly later the balloon was shot down over the ocean.

Above, a photograph of President Joe Biden speaking on February 1, 2023. The FAA paused arrivals and departures from several airports over North and South Carolina amid reports that Biden is considering shooting down the Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

An FAA spokesperson told Newsweek before the balloon was shot downthat departures and arrivals had been paused for airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as well as Wilmington, North Carolina “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort.” The order is in place until 3:30 p.m. ET.

The FAA did not say whether this was specifically due to the Chinese surveillance balloon but it came just hours after Biden said his administration is “gonna take care of it” in his first public remarks about the balloon. Some of the balloon’s remnants could be recovered from the Atlantic Ocean, according to the AP.

The balloon was first spotted near Billings, Montana and continued to travel across the central region of the United States. It was spotted over Missouri Friday evening and over North Carolina on Saturday.

WMBF-TV meteorologist Jamie Arnold tweeted a photograph of the balloon hovering over Myrtle Beach Saturday afternoon.

The situation has further strained relations between the United States and China, which were already tense amid the Russia-Ukraine war and questions about the future of Taiwan’s sovereignty. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a planned trip to Beijing, intended to soothe tensions between the two countries, after the balloon was discovered.

Republican critics had pressed Biden to order the balloon to be knocked out, with former President Donald Trump, who is again running for the GOP nomination in 2024, urging Biden to “SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!” in a Truth Social post.

U.S. authorities have maintained they believe the balloon was intended to conduct surveillance over the U.S.—potentially including a nuclear site in Montana—but China has said it was a weather balloon that was blown off track.

U.S. officials on Friday confirmed a second balloon was spotted over Latin America and were working to confirm that it was a Chinese surveillance balloon.

Newsweek reached out to the Department of Defense for comment.

Update 02/24/2023 2:34 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional background.

Update 02/24/2023 2:55 p.m. ET: The story was updated to report the balloon has been shot down.

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