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China sharply rebukes US over decision to shoot down spy balloon

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Beijing says the US decision to shoot down a Chinese balloon that flew over the country as the US Navy was working to salvage the debris to learn more about what the Pentagon says was a spy ship. accused the

The Pentagon said two destroyers, USS Oscar Austin and USS Philippine Sea, and USS Carter Hall, a vessel with a landing dock, are engaged in recovery operations off South Carolina.

U.S. defense officials say Navy divers will attempt to collect debris from the balloon, as well as the payload, including surveillance equipment, hanging below the balloon after it fell into the relatively shallow part of the Atlantic Ocean, about 47 feet deep. said he would.

Hours after an American F-22 fighter jet shot down the balloon with a Sidewinder missile, Beijing accused Washington of committing a “serious violation of international agreements” and denounced its claims of a “civilian” balloon. repeated. weather.

China’s defense ministry said it reserves “the right to use any means necessary to deal with similar situations.”

An F-22 Raptor fired an air-to-air missile at 2:39 pm Saturday when the balloon was six nautical miles off the coast of US airspace, crashing the balloon into US territorial waters.

Democrats on Sunday applauded President Joe Biden for ordering the military to shoot down the balloon.

“President Biden made the right decision to shoot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon outside the confines of American civilians and infrastructure,” said Jack Reed, chairman of the Democratic Senate Armed Services Committee. .

But some Republicans have asked why Biden didn’t order the military to take action before the balloon that entered U.S. airspace over Alaska on Jan. 28 passed a classified military facility. .

“Shooting them down across the Atlantic is like tackling a quarterback after the game is over,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner. “The satellite has completed its mission. It should never have been allowed into the United States.”

A defense official said the balloon was not lowered to the ground because of the danger to civilians. But they added that the United States monitored its path and gathered information as it crossed North America.

“What is not understood . . . is that it actually took days to analyze this balloon . . . what this balloon was doing and how it was doing. Let’s learn a lot,” said one senior defense official.

Marco Rubio, the Republican vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Biden should have spoken to the American public that week, but the administration was trying to save Secretary of State Anthony Brinken’s trip to China. said he was concentrating on this weekend.

blinken canceled his trip on friday,say it China violated U.S. sovereign airspace. He had planned to meet President Xi Jinping in what was to be the first visit to China by a cabinet member of the Biden administration.

Mike Mullen, a retired Navy admiral and former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, questioned whether China’s leadership knew about China’s military operations — “whether the right hand knew what the left hand was doing.” He said there were “big questions” that he didn’t have answers for. .

Mullen told ABC Television that the episode “has hit hard” on attempts to stabilize relations between Beijing and Washington.

A person familiar with the thinking inside the U.S. administration said the U.S. still doesn’t know whether President Xi Jinping knew about the balloon operation.

The person added that China has not asked the US to return the balloon debris.

The Pentagon on Wednesday revealed the existence of the balloon as it is Fly over sensitive military installations Montana, where the United States has a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile base.

Defense officials said it was part of China’s fleet of reconnaissance balloons operating on five continents. On January 28, it intruded into U.S. airspace near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. She entered Canadian airspace two days later and reentered U.S. airspace over Idaho on 31 January.

The official also said Chinese reconnaissance balloons had passed “briefly” over the U.S. mainland three times when Donald Trump was president and once during the start of the Biden administration.

However, one senior Trump administration national security official said he and other senior civilian officials were unaware of such incidents.

The Pentagon also said a second Chinese balloon was detected over Latin America. The Colombian Air Force said it had spotted a balloon that may have been flying 55,000 feet over the northern part of the country on Friday before it left its airspace. said in

Chinese officials were subpoenaed to the State Department on Wednesday, but diplomats were unable to immediately provide an explanation, according to a person familiar with the administration’s thinking.

“They were caught off guard and still haven’t spoken,” the person said. “We knew exactly what was going on and made it clear that we needed a quick response…it took longer than it should have for them to get back to us.”

Additional reporting by Eleanor Olcott of Hong Kong and Joe Parkin Daniels of Bogota

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