Officials Issue Warning Not to Touch Chinese Spy Balloon Debris

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
February 5, 2023US News
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Officials Issue Warning Not to Touch Chinese Spy Balloon Debris
A large balloon drifts above the Kingstown, N.C. area, with an airplane and its contrail seen below it. (Brian Branch via AP)

Local officials in North and South Carolina issued warnings to locals not to touch a suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down by U.S. jets over the Atlantic Ocean.

If debris from the balloon washes ashore, people should contact local authorities. Warnings were issued by local municipalities over the weekend after the balloon went down on Saturday afternoon.

“Please be advised we are aware of the destruction of the balloon that was over the ocean near our City,” said the North Myrtle Beach Police Department in a statement. “Pieces of this balloon are being collected by the U.S. military however it is possible some of those pieces may wash ashore. Any stray pieces are expected in the NC area but could wash ashore in [North Myrtle Beach].”

“If a piece is located please contact your local law enforcement agency for collection,” according to the statement. “Debris should not be touched, moved, or removed. Such items are part of a federal investigation and tampering with them could interfere with that investigation. Our non-emergency number is 843-280-5511.”

Sunset Beach police said in a news release Saturday afternoon that “these stray pieces are expected to wash ashore in the North Carolina area.” It’s not clear when, however, and U.S. military recovery efforts are underway.

“Members of the U.S. Military are coordinating to collect debris from the ocean; however, it is possible fragments may make it to the coastline,” Horry County Police said in a post.

It came as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the Biden administration approved the shootdown of the aerial device on Wednesday, claiming that it was done “as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.”

Austin’s statement said that due to the high altitude and significant size the balloon—which was moving at around 60,000 feet in the air—the U.S. military determined that it would be too risky to shoot it down over U.S. territory. The balloon was first reported over Billings, Montana, last week, which prompted calls from Republicans and Democrats to take it down.

Montana, notably, is home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, which has fields of nuclear missile silos.

Spy balloon
In this picture obtained from social media, a balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, on Feb. 1, 2023. (Chase Doak/via Reuters)

“Allowing a spy balloon from the Communist Party of China to travel across the entire continental United States before contesting its presence is a disastrous projection of weakness by the White House,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a statement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had a more positive tone, writing on Twitter: “Thank you to the men and women of the United States military who were responsible for completing the mission to shoot down the Chinese surveillance balloon. The Biden Administration did the right thing in bringing it down.”

Response

“They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” President Joe Biden said after getting off Air Force One en route to Camp David on Saturday, reported The Associated Press.

The balloon, resembling a giant white orb, was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the Atlantic coast. At about 2:39 p.m. EST, an F-22 fighter jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, senior defense officials said.

The spectacle had Americans looking to the skies all week, wondering whether the mysterious balloon had floated over them.

On Saturday, Ashlyn Preaux, 33, went out to get her mail in Forestbrook, South Carolina, and noticed her neighbors looking up—and there it was, the balloon in the cloudless blue sky. Then she saw fighter jets circling and the balloon getting hit.

“I did not anticipate waking up to be in a ‘Top Gun’ movie today,” she said.

U.S. defense and military officials said Saturday that the balloon entered the U.S. air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28 and moved largely over land across Alaska and then into Canadian airspace in the Northwest Territories on Monday. It crossed back into U.S. territory over northern Idaho on Tuesday, the day the White House said Biden was first briefed on it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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