The US military is investigating whether a 200-foot-tall Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the South Carolina coast was carrying explosives, according to Air Force General Glen D. VanHerck.
“So, I can’t confirm whether it had explosives or not. Anytime you down something like this, we make an assumption that that potential exists,” said Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command, to reporters.
“We did not associate the potential of having explosives with a threat to dropping weapons, those kinds of things, but out of a precaution, abundance of safety for not only our military people and the public, we have to make assumptions such as that,” he went on to say.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby defended President Biden’s decision to wait and shoot down the balloon over water, which allowed the US to study the balloon’s capabilities.
“The time that we had to study this balloon over the course of a few days last week, we believe was important and will give us a lot more clarity, not only on the capabilities that these balloons have, but what China is trying to do with them,” Kirby said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained that shooting the balloon down over water “wasn’t just the safest option, it might maximize the chance of recovering the payload.”
The majority of the balloon’s debris has been collected, according to VanHerck, but some may come ashore and he warned people to call the authorities and stay away from it.
Kirby stated that the remains of the balloon would be valuable to the US, though declined to answer a question about President Xi Jinping’s involvement in the balloon mission.
“I would like to refrain from getting into any discussions about our intelligence assessments of this,” Kirby said.
The balloon incident has impacted US-China relations, causing Secretary of State Antony Blinken to delay a planned trip to China.
Kirby said previous Chinese balloons flew over the US during the Trump administration, but the Biden administration only became aware of them after taking office.
Officials have said they will brief Trump-era officials on the balloons, but declined to specify who would receive the briefings.