WATCH: The U.S Has Shot Down The Chinese Balloon Hanging Over It For Days

The United States military has shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had been flying across the US for several days. The US says has been spying on key military sites across America.

Fighter jets shot down the balloon shortly after the US government ordered a halt to flights around the South Carolina coast due to what it said at the time was an undisclosed “national security effort”. Three airports were shut, and airspace was closed off the coast of North and South Carolina as the military carried out the operation

The Department of Defense confirmed its fighter jets brought down the balloon over US territorial waters. “We successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” President Joe Biden said on Saturday.

An F-22 jet fighter engaged the high-altitude balloon, which had been flying at about 18,300 meters (60,000 ft), with one missile – an AIM-9X Sidewinder – and it went down about six nautical miles off the US coast, a defense official told reporters.

The military is now trying to recover debris that is spread over seven miles (11km) in relatively shallow waters, military officials told reporters. Two naval ships, including one with a heavy crane for recovery, are in the area where the balloon fell.

A spy balloon is literally a gas-filled balloon that is flying quite high in the sky, more or less where commercial airplanes are flown.

A spy balloon generally has sophisticated cameras and imaging technology, and points all of those instruments down at the ground, collecting information through photography and other imaging of whatever is on the ground below it.

China has called for calm amid a growing diplomatic row with the US over suspected spy balloons. The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday that Beijing “never violated the territory and airspace of any sovereign country”.

The ministry said China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, had spoken with Blinken in a phone conversation and emphasized the importance of maintaining communications. “Especially in dealing with some unexpected situations in a calm and reliable manner,” it added.

President Biden first approved the plan to down the balloon on Wednesday, but the Pentagon said it had decided to wait until the object was over water so as not to put people on the ground at undue risk.

Beijing “would not accept any groundless conjecture or hype”, it added, accusing some US politicians and media of using the incident “as a pretext to attack and smear China”.

The discovery set off a diplomatic crisis, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling off an imminent trip to China over the “irresponsible act”.

“In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any visit, the U.S. making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

On Friday, the Pentagon said a second Chinese spy balloon had been spotted – this time over Latin America with reported sightings over Costa Rica and Venezuela. China has so far made no public comments on the reported second balloon.

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