The United States has shot down China’s surveillance balloon, which drifted in course from China into the U.S. through Canada.
President Joe Biden issued the order but had wanted the balloon downed even earlier, on Wednesday, Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.
The New York Times reported that the surveillance device was shot down with a single missile by an F-22 fighter jet on Saturday when it had moved off the coast and was over the Atlantic Ocean.
“They decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water within our 12-mile limit,” the president said.
“They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators that did it,” Mr Biden added.
The balloon, which spent five days travelling in a diagonal southeast route from Idaho to the Carolinas, sparked the possibility of a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Beijing
It is not immediately clear whether shooting down the device would put the impending crisis to rest as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned visit to China remains on hold.
China had claimed the balloon was only on a weather reconnaissance mission across the Pacific, but U.S. officials maintained it was fitted with spy tools and hovered over major U.S. nuclear and military facilities.
In its statement Sunday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “China will resolutely uphold the relevant company’s legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response.”