President Joe Biden’s administration is considering a plan to shoot down a large Chinese balloon suspected of spying on the US military. He would do so when he is over the Atlantic Ocean, where his remains could be collected, according to four official sources.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation, said it was unclear whether Biden had already made the final decision. In response to a reporter on Saturday, Biden said, “we’ll take care of this.”
It was sighted on Saturday morning in North Carolina, near the Atlantic coast.
Biden refused to shoot it down on the advice of defense experts concerned about the injuries its remains could cause to people on the ground.
Also, The US president vowed on Saturday to “take care of” the Chinese balloon. Asked by journalists about the relationship of the United States with China and about the globe, Biden limited himself to answering: “We will take care of that.”
Meanwhile, China downplayed the cancellation of a trip by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after the balloon sighting soured diplomatic relations. According to Beijing, neither side had formally announced a plan for the visit.
“Actually, the US and China had never announced any visits. The US making such an announcement is its business, and we respect it,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Blinken was scheduled to visit Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at easing tensions between the two nations.. It would be the first high-profile meeting since the presidents’ meeting in Indonesia in November. But Washington abruptly canceled the plans after discovering the balloon, despite China’s claim that it was a weather research “airship” that veered off course.
The Pentagon rejected that claim, as well as the claim that it was not used for surveillance duties and had limited navigation capabilities.
After initial hesitation, Beijing admitted that the “airship” was its propertybut said that it was a weather balloon that had drifted off course, adding that he was sorry about the situation.
“The aircraft is from China. It is a civil aircraft that is used for research purposes, mainly meteorological,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
China “regrets the involuntary entry of the aircraft into US airspace due to a force majeure event,” it noted, using the legal term for an act beyond human control.
The balloon particularly flew over parts of the northwestern United States where there are sensitive airbases and strategic nuclear missiles in underground installations.
On Saturday, US media reported that the balloon had been seen over North Carolina and South Carolina in the eastern part of the country.
Another suspected Chinese “spy” balloon was spotted over Latin America, the Pentagon said Friday, without providing details on its location or where it was headed.
With information from AP and AFP
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