US shoots down ‘spy balloon’ as China threatens ‘further actions’

The US has shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had been flying over its airspace.

Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the balloon descending toward the water off the Carolina coast.

The balloon was shot down with a missile fired by an F-22 fighter aircraft, about six nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Pentagon officials said.

The fighter jet shot a single missile into the balloon, which caused it to crash into the ocean.

“This was the first opportunity to successfully bring down the balloon without posing a threat to civilians”, a senior US official said.

Officials said they were “confident” the balloon was “seeking to monitor sensitive sights” and they will “seek to recover it”.

The balloon was flying between 60,000 to 65,000ft.

The debris was spread out over seven miles, US officials said.

Flights suspended

Mr Biden had warned the US was “going to take care of” the craft after it was spotted again on Saturday – this time over North Carolina.

The US had previously hesitated to shoot the balloon because of the risks to people on the ground from falling debris.

Ahead of the operation, flights were halted at three airports including Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina because of a “national security effort”, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The discovery of the balloon has stirred tensions and a diplomatic row between China and the US.

It prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a trip to Beijing.

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