Balloons similar to the one that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina this weekend flew over the U.S. at least three times during the Trump administration, according to a senior U.S. defense official.
As Republicans spent the past few days criticizing the Biden administration over its response to the suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew across the country, an official revealed during a briefing on Saturday that the U.S. was aware of three other instances during the prior administration and one instance earlier in the Biden administration that such an apparatus “transited” the country.
“PRC [People’s Republic of China] government surveillance balloons transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration but never for this duration of time,” said a senior defense official. “We spoke directly with Chinese officials through multiple channels, but rather than address their intrusion into our airspace, the PRC put out an explanation that lacked any credibility.”
Biden authorized the missile strike that shot down the balloon Saturday. Republican lawmakers have been arguing that the response should have come sooner, but military officials warned the president that the best time to take down the balloon was when it was over water, citing the risk of damage to people and property if it was shot down over land. Biden told reporters he wanted it shot down when he learned it entered U.S. airspace last week.
Trump denied the revelation by defense officials that Chinese balloons flew over the U.S. during his administration, calling it “disinformation.”
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