Republican are expressing outrage at the Biden administration’s lack of transparency with the American public over the Chinese surveillance balloon that has been hovering over the US for days.
The existence of the inflatable drone was first confirmed on Thursday when it was reported by the Billings Gazette after it was spotted over Montana, home to one of the US military’s three nuclear missile silos.
A subsequent report from Bloomberg found that the president was made aware of the balloon, and its dangerous threat, days earlier on January 28.
The decision to keep the story quiet as officials were worried the hysteria caused by the balloon would derail Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The decision to keep the story quiet as officials were worried the hysteria caused by the balloon would derail Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping
On Saturday, the balloon was downed as it traversed across North Carolina. An operation was underway in US territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean to recover debris from the balloon, which had been flying at about 60,000 feet and was estimated to be about the size of three school buses.
Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis told DailyMail.com ‘Communist China’s surveillance balloon violates international law and threatens our homeland. It’s an outrage that the Biden Administration spotted this balloon days ago as it was flying over the Aleutian Islands and did nothing about it.’
The recently reelected congresswoman added: ‘The president has not even made a comment about this unacceptable act of aggression by the CCP,
‘Whether it’s our border or air space, Congress must take action to protect it, because it’s clear this President won’t,’ she continued.
While the House Judiciary GOP Twitter account tweeted: ‘Joe Biden knew the Chinese spy balloon was coming. Tried to hide it from the American people. Let it fly across the ENTIRE COUNTRY.’
The message added: ‘And only after the entire country begged him to act, our great military shot it down. Embarrassing. Scary. Sad.’
President Joe Biden was told about the balloon on January 28 but waited a week before acting
Secretary Antony Blinken had been due to depart for Beijing for talks with the Chinese president on Friday
On Friday, Blinken canceled his trip to China at the last minute. In statements on the balloon, the secretary called it an ‘irresponsible act’ and referred to it as a ‘clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law.’
Blinken, who had been due to depart Washington for Beijing late Friday, said he had told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the U.S. was ‘an irresponsible act and that (China’s) decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have.’
Officially, the Pentagon has called the balloon an ‘intelligence-gathering’ device.
The Chinese government on Saturday sought to play down the cancellation.
‘In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any visit, the U.S. making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,’ China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday morning.
China has continued to claim that the balloon was merely a weather research ‘airship’ that had been blown off course.
The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that it was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational ability.
Biden had told reporters earlier Saturday that ‘we’re going to take care of it’ when asked about the balloon.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Coast Guard worked to clear the airspace and water below the balloon as it reached the ocean.
Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the balloon descending toward the water. U.S. military jets were seen flying in the vicinity and ships were deployed in the water to mount the recovery operation.
Officials were aiming to time the operation so they could recover as much of the debris as possible before it sinks into the ocean. The Pentagon had previously estimated that any debris field would be substantial.
The balloon was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the coast.
In preparation for the operation, the FAA Administration temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coastline, including the airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina.
The FAA rerouted air traffic from the area and warned of delays as a result of the flight restrictions.
In preparation for the operation, the FAA Administration temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coastline, including the airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina
The Chinese government’s official line is that the balloon is a weather research device
The Coast Guard advised mariners to immediately leave the area because of U.S. military operations ‘that present a significant hazard.’
Biden had been inclined to down the balloon over land when he was first briefed on it on Tuesday, but Pentagon officials advised against it, warning that the potential risk to people on the ground outweighed the assessment of potential Chinese intelligence gains.
The Pentagon also acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. ‘We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,’ Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.
Uncensored reactions on the Chinese internet mirrored the official government stance that the U.S. was hyping the situation.
Some used it as a chance to poke fun at U.S. defenses, saying it couldn’t even defend against a balloon, and nationalist influencers leapt to use the news to mock the US.
China has denied any claims of spying and said it is a civilian-use balloon intended for meteorology research.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that the balloon’s journey was out of its control and urged the U.S. not to ‘smear’ it based on the balloon.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk