The US has shot down the giant Chinese spy balloon near the east coast that was said to have been spying on sensitive military sites across the country.
The Department of Defense confirmed in a statement that the US fighter jets brought down the balloon over US territorial waters.
“Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President (Joe) Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
A US military official said that an F-22 fighter jet took the shot at 2:39 p.m. (local time), using a single AIM-9X supersonic, heat-seeking, air-to-air missile.
The debris landed in 47ft (14m) of water—shallower than they had expected—near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Two naval ships have been dispatched to retrieve the debris which is said to have been spread over 11km (7 miles).
A clip shared on Twitter by a Reuters photographer showed that a stream coming from a jet and hitting the balloon. According to the photographer, there was no explosion and it then began to fall.
After the balloon was shot down, Biden said, “They successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it.”
A few hours later, the Chinese foreign ministry reacted angrily to the incident saying, “The Chinese side has repeatedly informed the US side after verification that the airship is for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure – it was completely an accident.”
The Chinese authorities have denied it is a spying aircraft, and instead said it was a weather ship blown astray.
Reporting from WION.