A fighter jet destroyed the alleged surveillance device the moment it was over the ocean
The US has shot down what it termed a "Chinese surveillance balloon" off the coast of South Carolina. After traversing the country unimpeded for days, President Joe Biden said earlier on Saturday that he'd "take care of it."
Video footage shared on social media showed fighter jets circling the balloon over Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Once it was over the Atlantic Ocean, a single missile hit the balloon and sent it plummeting into the water.
Prior to the operation, the Federal Aviation Administration closed airspace over parts of North and South Carolina, in anticipation of the military operation to bring it down.
The mysterious craft was first seen over the western state of Montana on Wednesday, before it traversed the midwest en route to the Atlantic. Pentagon officials reportedly advised Biden against shooting the balloon down, leaving it free to travel for nearly three days. Amid growing media interest in the balloon, Biden told reporters on Saturday morning that "we're going to take care of it."
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Biden was first briefed on the balloon on Tuesday. However, she did not explain why the president waited until it was spotted by members of the public a day later to acknowledge its presence.
Beijing denied accusations of espionage, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry describing the balloon as a "civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes" which "deviated from its intended course."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to Beijing in response to the incident, with the State Department calling it "a clear violation of US sovereignty." China countered that no such visit had been agreed on in the first place.