On Sunday, Republicans attacked Joe Biden for how he handled a balloon that was thought to be a spy from China, while Democrats praised the president’s decision to shoot it down after it had been flying for days over the country and further strained already tense relations with Beijing.
One day after a US fighter jet shot down the giant blimp, operations to recover balloon debris off the coast of South Carolina are still ongoing.
The incident ignited a ferocious discussion over Biden’s handling of the situation and how US-Chinese relations would be harmed.
Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republican, stated on Twitter that the Biden administration “reacted at first too indecisively and then too late” when it comes to national defense and foreign policy.
“We ought not to have permitted the People’s Republic of China to parody our airspace.”
Vice-chair of the Senate’s intelligence panel Marco Rubio claimed on CNN that the president had violated his responsibility by failing to notify the public of the balloon’s presence sooner.
He characterized the overflight as a brazen attempt by Beijing to humiliate Biden soon before his State of the Union address on Tuesday and to obstruct Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China, which has subsequently been postponed.
Additionally, Representative Mike Turner, the head of the House intelligence committee in the US, criticized Biden by making an analogy to American football.
He told NBC that the president’s decision to bring it down over the Atlantic was “clearly like tackling the quarterback after the game is finished.”
“The satellite’s mission was done. It shouldn’t have been permitted to enter the country.”
Republicans’ criticisms were swiftly met by a response from Democrats labeling them “premature and partisan.”
The leader of the Senate’s Democratic group, Chuck Schumer, claimed that the administration had “taken the right decision.”
We made it very plain to China that this was unacceptable, he declared in a statement. “Civilians were safeguarded. We gathered more intelligence while preserving our own private data.”
Because any instrumentation on the airship was more likely to survive a water landing, Schumer claimed that shooting down the balloon with an F-22 fighter jet “wasn’t only the safest option, but it was the one that maximized our intel gain.”
On February 15, he stated, the entire Senate would be given a confidential briefing.
Over Colombia, another balloon?
On Friday, Pentagon officials referred to the blimp as a “high-altitude surveillance balloon,” adding without going into any detail that Washington has taken action to prevent it from gathering classified data.
The US Coast Guard is helping with the area’s security and public safety, according to General Glen VanHerck, head of US troops in North America, who said in a statement late Sunday that navy personnel were “currently performing recovery operations.”
Democrats have alleged that during the Trump administration, Chinese balloons at least temporarily overflew US soil three times without being shot down.
Air force officials in Colombia claimed an item with “characteristics comparable to those of a balloon” had been noticed Friday and “monitored until it exited the national air space,” a day after Pentagon officials said another balloon had been spotted somewhere over Latin America.
China has voiced its strong disapproval of the Saturday downing near the US coast, but it is unclear whether it has any further preparations.
China has conveyed its “serious unhappiness and complaints over the use of force by the United States to attack the unmanned civilian airship,” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, on Saturday.
China reserved “the right to make additional required responses,” it was further said.
Beijing claims that the balloon was blown off course and that its main purpose was to collect weather data.
Mike Mullen, a former member of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was questioned about the possibility that the Chinese military may have deliberately released the balloon to obstruct the Blinken visit—the secretary’s first trip to China since Biden became office.
Clearly, he said, “I believe that to be the case.
Mullen insisted that the craft could be maneuvered and dismissed China’s claim that it might have veered off course.
He responded, “It has propellers on it. “This did not happen by chance. This was planned. It was cleverness.”
Rubio pressed home what he saw to be a foreboding message from Beijing: “We can do this, and America can do nothing about it.”