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The Chinese reconnaissance balloon entered the sky over the United States and caused a backlash from lawmakers from both parties. Republicans shouted: Shoot it down!

A high-altitude balloon found over Billings, Montana. (2023 February 2)
A high-altitude balloon was found over Billings, Montana. (2023 February 2)

Capitol Hill– Chinese high-altitude reconnaissance balloons flying over the United States have aroused strong concern from members of both parties in the US Congress. Many congressmen expressed their opinion that this is no coincidence and criticized China for violating the sovereignty of the United States. The Republican leader of the House of Representatives has asked the Biden administration to brief Congress on the incident, and some Republicans have bluntly called on the Pentagon to shoot it down directly.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) immediately asked the Biden administration to brief the “Gang of Eight” in Congress on the entry of Chinese reconnaissance balloons into U.S. airspace. The “Gang of Eight” is the common name for members of the U.S. Congress who have the right to receive classified intelligence briefings from the executive branch. Its members include the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives and the intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives.

“China’s blatant disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing behavior that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot remain silent,” McCarthy tweeted Thursday night.

China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent.

I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing. https://t.co/KarTCUzbOS

— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) February 3, 2023

The Chinese government issued a statement on Friday, acknowledging that a Chinese “civilian” unmanned airship used for scientific research such as meteorology had “seriously deviated from the planned route” due to the influence of the westerly winds and limited control capabilities.

“China regrets that the airship strayed into the United States due to force majeure. China will continue to maintain communication with the United States and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure,” said a statement issued by a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in response to a reporter’s question.

But China’s official response did little to quell the political storm that the balloon incident had unleashed in Washington. The Pentagon said it was an “intelligence gathering balloon”.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, pushed back against the Chinese government’s claims in an interview with US media on Friday.

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“It seems so silly. It’s the 21st century and they think they can get away with denying it. Saying ‘well, we didn’t want it to fly there, it’s just a balloon. Who knows what will happen to the balloon ?’ That’s actually inaccurate. These things are operational to a degree,” Rubio said.

He went on to explain that while such scout balloons are not as precise as drones, drones, or airplanes, they are operational, and “they can often tell where they’re going”.

Rubio also said it was no coincidence that China sent high-altitude surveillance balloons into the United States ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blicken’s planned trip to Beijing.

“They do these things to humiliate each other, to show strength, to send a message. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, I think it’s connected,” Rubio said.

Rubio tweeted Thursday that the presence of Chinese surveillance balloons in U.S. airspace was “shocking but not surprising.”

He also said that “the extent of Beijing’s espionage against the United States has become more intense and brazen over the past five years.”

A Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. is alarming but not surprising

The level of espionage aimed at our country by Beijing has grown dramatically more intense & brazen over the last 5 years

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 2, 2023

Secretary of State Blinken decided Friday morning to postpone a visit to Beijing after the Pentagon confirmed it had spotted a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace. The planned trip would be the first by a top U.S. diplomat to China since 2018.

“After consultation with our interagency partners and Congress, we have concluded that it is inappropriate for Secretary Blinken to travel to China at this time,” a senior State Department official told reporters Friday.

“We note the statement by the People’s Republic of China expressing regret, but the balloon’s intrusion into our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty and international law. It is unacceptable for this to happen,” the official said.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement Friday supporting Secretary Blinken’s decision to hold off on his trip to Beijing.

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“I am deeply disappointed to discover that the People’s Republic of China reconnaissance balloons flew over the United States, especially on the eve of Secretary of State Antony Blicken’s scheduled visit to Beijing,” Menendez said in a statement. U.S. sovereignty and violation of international law in a country that claims to be a responsible actor.”

Menendez said he looks forward to hearing timely and thorough intelligence from the Biden administration as he continues to monitor the situation.

Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder declined to say where the balloon was when asked about the Chinese surveillance balloon at a news conference Friday but said the balloon had left Montana and was moving east, in North America’s middle ground.

Ryder emphasized that the U.S. government continues to track the balloon. He said the balloon “is currently traveling at altitudes well above commercial air traffic and poses no military or a physical threat to personnel on the ground.”

The Pentagon stated that based on the safety of ground personnel, the United States will not shoot down the balloon at present. The Pentagon also pointed out that although the balloon has flown over less populated areas of Montana, the debris produced by shooting down the balloon is not small, which may endanger the safety of people on the ground.

Many congressional Republicans criticized the decision of the Biden administration.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) called on the Biden administration to remove the balloon as soon as possible in a statement Friday.

“The fact that this balloon should never have been allowed into U.S. airspace, and that the Biden Administration allowed it to continue, poses an immediate and ongoing national security threat to the U.S. homeland while jeopardizing the privacy of every American,” McKay said. Kaur said.

He went on to say, “I call on the Biden administration to take swift steps to remove Chinese spy balloons from U.S. airspace.”

Sen. Jim Risch (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the same call on Twitter.

“China’s use of this surveillance balloon is a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Senator Risch said. “The Biden Administration must remove the balloon from U.S. airspace as soon as possible.”

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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said bluntly in response to a tweet about a Chinese spy balloon: “Shoot it down.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), another Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also tweeted, “I have three words for Joe Biden on Chinese spy balloon moving to Tennessee To say: shoot it down.”

The bipartisan leaders of the newly formed House Select Committee on U.S.-China Strategic Competition also issued a joint statement late Thursday, condemning China for violating U.S. sovereignty.

“The Chinese Communist Party should not be able to enter U.S. airspace at will,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), chairman of the committee, and Rep. Raja Krishna (D-WI), the committee’s co-chairs. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-IL, said in a written statement.

“Doing so just days before Secretary Blinken’s upcoming visit to China not only violates U.S. sovereignty but also clearly demonstrates that the CCP’s recent diplomatic overtures do not represent a substantive change in its policy. Indeed, this incident highlights that the CCP threat is not limited to distant borders, it’s happening right here in our country, and we must act to counter this threat.”

Congressman Gallagher, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee, emphasized in an interview with US media on Friday that the balloon incident was not an isolated incident.

“It’s not going to be the last thing we see the Chinese Communist Party do,” Gallagher said. “They’re testing us, they’re laughing at us, and of course, they’re trying to gather as much sensitive information from us as possible. .”

The House of Representatives Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “The Chinese Communist Party’s Imminent Threat to American Defense” next Tuesday. Former US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien (Robert O’Brien) and former US Pacific Command Commander Harry Harris ( Harry Harris will testify. The intrusion into U.S. airspace by a Chinese surveillance balloon is expected to be one of the focuses of lawmakers.

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