A Chinese surveillance balloon, as described by U.S. officials, was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet on Saturday after spending days hovering above the continental United States.
A senior defense official told reporters Thursday that the Pentagon urged President Joe Biden against immediately firing the flying orb out of the sky owing to safety concerns for civilians, as the high-altitude object was huge enough to create a large debris field.
Many Republicans criticized the Biden administration for what they perceived to be a slow response to the foreign object, while some conservative leaders and pundits criticized the Biden administration in general, claiming that no other leader, such as Donald Trump, would have allowed a Chinese spy balloon to fly over the United States.
Would Trump have permitted China to deploy a spy balloon above the United States? Representative Jim Jordan used Twitter. “Might Reagan? JFK? Truman? No, no, and no.”
Would Trump have let China fly a spy balloon over our country?
No, no, no, and no.
So why’s Biden letting China off the hook?
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) February 3, 2023
The Associated Press reported on Saturday that top Pentagon sources stated that Chinese surveillance balloons came into the United States at least three times during the Trump administration and once during the Biden administration.
The senior defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity stated that “a balloon of this sort” crossed the continental United States prior to the Biden administration, but declined to identify when.
“It has occurred several times in recent years, including prior to this government. Nevertheless, I will not go into further detail “said the official.
Also unknown is if balloons observed under the Trump administration were shot down. A representative for the Pentagon failed to reply to a request for comment.
Craig Singleton, a senior scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Associated Press that Chinese surveillance balloons had been spotted multiple times during the past five years. He stated that several of them have been observed near US military bases in Hawaii, but did not specify when.
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Trump on Thursday retweeted a Truth Social post by right-wing activist Jack Posobiec, who asserted without evidence that the Pentagon was claiming that “the quiet part out loud. The CCP may put reconnaissance balloons over our nuclear silos, and we will do nothing.”
Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, alleged in a statement that, if press allegations are accurate, the Biden administration intended to conceal this incident from the American public.
Prior to this week’s incident, the Trump administration never made public the times when suspected surveillance balloons crossed into the United States.
Tim Scott, a Republican senator from South Carolina, stated that “the balloon should have been shot down before it crossed the continental United States, not after,” calling the incident a “dereliction of duty” on the part of Vice President Joe Biden.
It is unknown what information the alleged Chinese spy balloon could have gathered from its various positions. Over Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base, which houses intercontinental ballistic missiles, the balloon flew.
Officials from the United States have stated that the balloon’s potential intelligence gathering presents little threat.
The device’s exact dimensions were not made public, but a senior official told ABC News that it was approximately the size of three buses.
The senior military official did recognize that the duration of the object’s existence is a distinguishing aspect of the balloon event of the past week.
“This time around, it appears to linger for an extended amount of time, being more persistent than in the past. Consequently, this would be a defining feature “he said.