The U.S. Navy on Tuesday released photos showing the recovery of the remnants of a Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over the weekend on the orders of President Joe Biden off the coast of South Carolina.
The photos were taken Sunday, a day after an American fighter jet fired on the 200-foot-tall balloon, sending it hurtling down into the Atlantic Ocean in a dramatic scene caught live on TV.
China has claimed that the balloon, which first was spotted by the public flying over Montana last Wednesday, was a wayward “civilian unmanned airship” that was primarily conducting weather research.
After the balloon was spotted, but before it was shot down, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken canceled a planned trip to China.
During a hearing on Capitol Hill, Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., said he “loves” Biden but disagreed with the dayslong delay in shooting down the balloon because of the time it gave the Chinese to collect additional data and intelligence by the aircraft flying over the U.S.
In response, a witness at the hearing, former National Security Council and National Economic Council member Peter Harrell, said that Blinken’s decision to postpone his trip to China is the start of a response, not the end.
Rep. Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican, said she and her family watched as the balloon flew over her home state.
“President Biden’s decision to let the [Chinese Communist Party] balloons travel the length and breadth of the United States of America was an unpardonable show of weakness on the world stage,” Wagner said.
“I am calling on the administration to restore America’s ability to deter reckless provocations. The stakes of strategic competition with China are exceedingly high,” she said. “And if the CCP’s influence continues to spread and unchallenged, American communities will pay a price.”
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that the balloon is suspected of being the fifth Chinese surveillance balloon detected over the continental U.S. since 2017.
Kirby said three of those balloons flew over the U.S. during the Trump administration, while there was another one during Biden’s tenure in the White House besides this most recent one.
Former President Donald Trump has said he was never informed that a Chinese balloon had passed over the U.S. when he was in office.
Kirby said the three balloons during Trump’s tenure were only discovered after he left office in January 2021.