Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Shot Down by U.S. Military

The White House suspects collection of aerial intelligence to be the cause behind the breach.

Nina Theriot Valdes, Staff Writer

Photographer: Chad Fish/AP Photo

This past Saturday, an American F22 stealth fighter jet shot a Chinese balloon that penetrated U.S. airspace. The balloon was first identified on Wednesday, as it flew over Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base, which houses intercontinental missile fields and nuclear missiles. 

The shoot-down was authorized on Wednesday by President Joe Biden after China claimed the balloon as theirs and categorized it as a simple weather research device that wafted off route; its whereabouts, however, raised suspicions in U.S. officials about the true nature of the balloon’s mission. Out of fear of endangering pedestrians or property, officials held off on the strike until Saturday, when the balloon flew off the South Carolina Coast, and the debris no longer posed any risk.

The debris of the balloon is now scattered within a seven-mile range in the Atlantic Ocean; officials say it may only take days to collect, and will serve as evidence to reveal the real cause behind China’s breach.

As stated by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the strike on the balloon was a lawful response to China’s illegal penetration of U.S. airspace, accidental or not. Refuting China’s claims, The Pentagon considered this incident a Chinese attempt to collect aerial intelligence, as multiple Chinese balloons have been spotted unlawfully penetrating the airspace of countries all around the globe. 

In response to the attack, China issued a statement calling the response of the U.S. government a “clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.” Although it is unknown what diplomatic issues will ensue between the two nations, the United States is not open to much diplomacy at the moment: Secretary of State, Antony Blinken canceled his trip to Beijing after the incident, only further highlighting the severity that the U.S. government attributes to this event.