On Saturday, U.S. military fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon floating off the coast of South Carolina.
President Joe Biden ordered the takedown of the balloon, but the Pentagon suggested waiting until it could be done in open water, according to Reuters.
The mission involved multiple fighter and refueling aircraft, an F-22 fighter jet being the only one to fire a single AIM-9X missile, approximately six nautical miles away from the U.S. coast.
The FAA had issued a Temporary Flight Restriction to clear the airspace in South Carolina, warning that the military could use deadly force if airplanes entered the restricted zone and did not comply with orders to leave.
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Military officials say the balloon first entered a U.S. identification zone on Jan. 28, then floated into Canadian airspace, before returning to U.S. airspace on Jan. 31.
China responded to the incident, saying that the “airship” had strayed into U.S. airspace by accident. The foreign ministry blamed U.S. politicians and the media for exploiting the situation to discredit Beijing.
The incident caused U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to delay a trip to China that had been planned for the week. The Pentagon has reported that another Chinese balloon had been seen in Latin America, but officials did not confirm its specific location.
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