A spy balloon linked to China floated over the continental United States before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina.
What Happened? On February 2, it was reported that the Pentagon was monitoring a suspected spy balloon floating over Montana. As it floated east, many voices on the right called on the Biden Administration to shoot the balloon down. Biden later stated he told the Pentagon to shoot the balloon down on Wednesday, before the news widely broke, but the military opted to wait until the balloon reached the Atlantic coastline before downing it, with its wreckage subsequently collected by U.S. Navy divers.
The military explained their decision at a press conference on February 2. A senior defense official stated the balloon did not pose an immediate threat warranting shooting it down in an area where falling debris could pose a safety risk, adding, "we assess that the risk of downing it, even if the probability was low in a sparsely populated area of the debris falling and hurting somebody or damaging property that it wasn't worth it and that was the recommendation of our military commanders."
On February 8, a report from the Washington Post (Lean Left Bias) cited a number of anonymous U.S. intelligence personnel linking the balloon to a wider, global surveillance program operated by the Chinese military. The report stated that similar balloons— only recently linked to China— have entered U.S. airspace at least four times in recent years.
Fallout: Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to Beijing. In Biden's State of the Union address on Feb 7, he stated, "Make no mistake, as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country, and we did."
Many voices on the right criticized the Biden Administration for allowing the military to wait multiple days before downing the balloon, fearing the delay made the U.S. appear weak to its global rivals. Voices across the spectrum speculated how this would impact relations between the U.S. and China moving forward.
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Snippets from the Right
"Americans of all walks of life are now fixated on an adversary's spy apparatus looming above their homes and communities. They, and their representatives in Congress, may remember this balloon the next time a Chinese official calls on the U.S. to serve Beijing's 'win-win cooperation' agenda."
"While the previous Administration tried to warn the public about TikTok, which opens a back door for the CCP to see every keystroke a person enters, the current Administration invites TikTok influencers into the White House to push political talking points on our teenagers. There are 80 million other 'balloons' strung across the United States in the form of an app on our phones."
Snippets from the Left
"Experts and those close to the White House said Biden’s decision to send a clear message to China — and perhaps to Republican critics at home — reflected his long-held view that the biggest threat to the U.S.-China relationship is not a deliberate act of war, but a miscalculation or mistake that could escalate into a catastrophic conflict."
"The balloon brouhaha underscores why more serious high-level dialogue is urgently needed. Even in the case of this relatively minor crisis, the US struggled to get swift answers from Chinese officials. And the howls of outrage in Washington and calls across the political spectrum for retribution demonstrated just how little room President Joe Biden currently has to maneuver."
Snippets from the Center
"Having stuck rigidly to its argument that the balloon was a 'civilian airship' that was collecting weather data and later blown off course by forces beyond its control, the Chinese leadership now face the very real prospect of having some or part of its technologies and methods revealed to the world."
"Blinken must make it clear to the Chinese that while the Biden administration is seriously interested in diplomacy, it will need proactive and positive Chinese engagement to sustain it. After all, many skeptics feel that they have seen this movie before."