The US Coast Guard on Monday imposed a temporary security zone in waters off South Carolina during the military's search for debris from a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down by a US fighter jet, and the White House said it would keep a calm approach to relations with Beijing. The US Navy and Coast Guard were using underwater drones overnight on Tuesday to locate and map the debris field of a downed Chinese balloon.
President Joe Biden told reporters it was always his view that the balloon needed to be shot down and brushed off a question about whether the incident would weaken US-China relations. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said the balloon's flight over the United States had done nothing to improve already tense relations with China and dismissed Beijing's contention it was for meteorological purposes.
The United States on Monday ruled out returning to China the debris of the surveillance balloon which was shot down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, hence the US military had intensified its efforts to collect the remnants of the high-altitude surveillance balloon from China that floated over the United States over several days last week from Montana to South Carolina. Navy divers began pulling pieces of the suspected spy balloon from the ocean floor after all the balloon's pieces floating on the surface were collected earlier on Tuesday.
China on Monday confirmed that a balloon flying over Latin America is Chinese and said it is for civilian purposes. This comes shortly after a similar device was shot down by the United States on Saturday. The debris will eventually go either to the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia, or other sites where experts can analyze it, officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press.
The Chinese foreign ministry declared its “strong discontent and protest” about the US’s downing of the balloon. In a statement, the ministry said China had told Washington repeatedly that the balloon was a civilian aircraft that had inadvertently flown over the US and its presence was “totally accidental”.
The downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon just off South Carolina’s coast created a spectacle over one of the state’s tourism hubs and drew crowds reacting with a mixture of bewildered gazing, distress and cheering. The balloon was struck by a missile from an F-22 fighter just off Myrtle Beach, fascinating sky-watchers across a populous area known as the Grand Strand for its miles of beaches that draw retirees and vacationers.