The U.S. has shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that was flying off the Carolina coast on Saturday afternoon.
The incident happened hours after the balloon, which Pentagon officials called a “surveillance balloon” was spotted over Charlotte, North Carolina, the Associated Press reported.
Local WSOC-TV news station said that the balloon could be seen outside its station shortly after 10 a.m.
Saturday afternoon, President Joe Biden told reporters that the Pentagon did not want any residents injured when Air Force jets shot down the balloon.
“On Wednesday when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down — on Wednesday — as soon as possible,” Biden said after arriving at Camp David from Syracuse, New York. “They decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water within our 12-mile limit.
“They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators that did it.”
Biden confirmed he gave the orders order to shoot down the Chinese balloon on Wednesday once it was over the water, the AP reported.
Shortly before Biden made a statement on the incident, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin confirmed that U.S. fighter jets from Northern Command “successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China.”
The balloon was shot down while it was still in U.S. airspace, Austin added.
Following the shootdown, an operation was underway in U.S. territorial waters to recover debris from the balloon, which had been flying at about 60,000 feet and was estimated to be about the size of three school buses.
Flights to and from Wilmington (ILM), Myrtle Beach International (MYR) and Charleston International (CHS) airports are resuming.
Other airspace has been reopened.
Normal operations resuming.
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) February 4, 2023