Three Chinese spy balloons entered the US during the Trump administration, but they were never shot down or publicly disclosed.
In reporting the latest of the Chinese balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, The US Department of Defense said three other of these crafts ‘briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration.’
The revelation startled Mark Esper, the former Secretary of Defense, and comes as Trump and other Republicans claimed he would have shot down the balloon while calling on Joe Biden to resign over the stalled attack on the craft.
One such Republican was US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who tweeted on Saturday: ‘I just spoke with our GREAT America First President Trump. He would have never allowed China to fly a spy balloon over our country and our military bases and assets.
‘Pres Trump would have shot it down before it entered the US.’
The Department of Defense reported that three Chinese spy balloons entered US airspace during the Trump administration, a revelation that started the former president’s own Secretary of Defense. Trump (left) has chastised Joe Biden (right) for not immediately shooting the craft when he first learned about it last week
US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was among the Republicans claiming Trump would have shot down the balloon if he was president
Trump called on the balloon to be taken down and said that when he’s back in the White House, he’ll use the FBI and Justice Department to hunt down ‘Chinese spies’
According to a senior Pentagon official, three balloons made it into the US during the Trump years, but never for as long as the one that recently flew across the country.
The balloon reportedly entered the US last week from Canada, hovering over Montana, which houses nuclear silos, as it made its way southeast before flying off the coast of South Carolina.
Esper told CNN that he was ‘surprised’ by the Pentagon’s statement, saying he was never told about Chinese surveillance balloons entering the US when he served between July 2019 to November 2020.
‘I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,’ Esper said, adding that ‘I would remember that for sure.’
Biden first became aware of the balloon on January 28, when it was spotted over Alaska. The US military tracked it over Canadian airspace and as it re-entered US territory on Tuesday.
Fearing the debris could hit ‘sensitive’ areas as it traveled across the country, officials warned the president not to shoot it down until it was flying over the ocean.
US officials confirmed that an F-22 Raptor fighter jet took down the balloon with a single AIM-9X sidewinder missile at 2.38pm on Saturday, off the coast of Myrtle beach.
The delayed response, however, drew ire from GOP officials, blasting Biden for not immediately going through with the order to take down the balloon.
US Rep. Joe Wilson and Sen. Josh Hawley condemned the Biden administration over the balloon incident, with Wilson calling on the president to resign
US. Rep. Joe Wilson, of South Carolina, said both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris should resign because of the fiasco.
‘The catastrophic Chinese Spy Balloon spectacle clearly threatened American families from Alaska to my home community in South Carolina and confirms President Biden and Vice President Harris should resign,’ Wilson said in a tweet.
‘It is irrelevant for American families which party is in power because the first criteria of a leader should be their capability regardless of party, and sadly Biden and Harris are failures,’ he added.
US Sen. Josh Hawley had called for a hearing against Biden on the ‘major domestic security threat.’
He tweeted: ‘The Homeland Security Committee needs to have public hearings NOW on the Chinese spy balloon – how did Biden let this happen.’
Other GOP officials weighed in on the issue and warned that waiting to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon only showed weakness
Sen. Tim Scott echoed his colleagues’ outrage, saying that allowing a balloon from the CCP to fly over America ‘is the embodiment of weak leadership.’
‘Weakness tempts aggressors. Strength stops them,’ he tweeted.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn also questioned the decision to shoot down the balloon only after it was made public.
‘It makes you wonder, would Biden’s Department of Defense have shot it down if the American people hadn’t found out,’ she tweeted.
Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president, tweeted, ‘Shoot down the Chinese spy balloon,’ as he then called on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to condemn the surveillance incident at his now-canceled meeting in Beijing.
The GOP officials have not publicly commented on the revelation that such balloons were encountered during the Trump administration.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk