Republicans criticize Biden for waiting to shoot down the Chinese balloon

Natalie Portman
By Natalie Portman 6 Min Read
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By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Republican lawmakers on Sunday slammed President Joe Biden for waiting days to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon as it flew over the United States, accusing him of showing weakness toward China and initially trying to maintain violation of US airspace Not declared.

A US Air Force fighter jet shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, a week after it first entered US airspace near Alaska, sparking a dramatic espionage saga that has further strained US-Chinese relations.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that the US military was able to glean “valuable” intelligence by studying the balloon and that three other Chinese surveillance balloons had transited the US during the presidency of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump , which Republican Trump denied.

Republican Tom Cotton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “We should have shot down this balloon over the Aleutian Islands,” where the balloon first entered U.S. airspace over Alaska on Jan. 28. . transit throughout the continental United States.”

Cotton told “Fox News Sunday” that he believed Biden, a Democrat, had waited to disclose the penetration of US airspace because he wanted to save Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned diplomatic trip to Beijing, which was eventually postponed. .

“I think part of that is the president’s reluctance to take any action that could be seen as provocative or confrontational toward Chinese Communists,” Cotton added.

BIDEN ORDER

Biden said Saturday he issued an order Wednesday to shoot down the balloon after it entered Montana, but the Pentagon recommended waiting until it could be done offshore to protect civilians from debris crashing into Earth from nearly double the altitude of commercial air traffic.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Biden’s approach has safeguarded Americans on the ground.

“The president has asked that this be addressed in a way that balances all the different risks. That’s exactly what happened,” Buttigieg said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said of the Republican criticisms, “They’re premature and they’re political.”

Schumer said shooting down the balloon in the ocean likely allows US intelligence officials to examine its remains.

“The bottom line here is that shooting down the balloon on water was not only the safest option, it was the one that maximized our intelligence gain,” Schumer said at a news conference.

The Pentagon will brief senators on the balloon and Chinese surveillance on February 15, Schumer said.

PREVIOUS SIGHTINGS

Trump on Sunday disputed Austin’s claim that Chinese government surveillance balloons had briefly transited the continental United States three times during his presidency.

“China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for this to happen, and it NEVER did,” Trump wrote on social media.

Speaking on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” Trump’s former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe also denied such balloon incidents.

But Republican Representative Michael Waltz backed Austin, telling the Washington Post that the Pentagon had notified Congress that Chinese balloons have been sighted multiple times near the United States during Trump’s tenure. He said the balloons have been sighted near Texas and twice near Florida, as well as previously known sightings near Hawaii and Guam.

Republican Mike Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he believes China is using the balloon to figure out how to counter US nuclear weapons and missile defense systems.

“The president has allowed this to go through our most sensitive sites and he wasn’t even going to tell the American public,” Turner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “There has been no attempt to brief Congress, no attempt to assemble the Gang of Eight (bipartisan group of congressional leaders). I think this administration lacks urgency.”

Republican Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the ABC News program “This Week” that China is trying to send a message that it could enter US airspace. Rubio said he doubted the balloon debris would have much intelligence value.

China on Sunday condemned as an overreaction the United States’ action against what Beijing called an airship used for meteorological and other scientific purposes that went missing in US airspace “completely by accident”. Washington has rejected this explanation.

(Reporting by David Lawder, Kanishka Singh, Gram Slattery and Andy Sullivan in Washington and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Grant McCool)

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