US General on the Chinese surveillance balloon: "It was not an accident"

U.S. Navy divers are trying to find the remains of a Chinese spy balloon that was shot down by a US Air Force F-22 fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina.

Source: Novosti

Former U.S. admiral Michael Mullen says he expects that to happen quickly, and then experts will analyze the Chinese equipment.

A US F-22 fighter jet shot down a Chinese balloon with an air-to-air Sidewinder missile. The Pentagon claims that the Chinese aerostat was intended for spying or recording secret military facilities. The remains of the balloon are scattered over a large area, according to the BBC.

China's foreign ministry later expressed "strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US's use of force to attack civilian unmanned aircraft".

The discovery of the balloon set off a diplomatic crisis, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken immediately calling off this weekend's trip to China over the "irresponsible act".

The Chinese authorities have denied it is a spying aircraft, and instead said it was a weather ship blown astray.

Admiral Mike Mullen, former chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday he thought the Chinese military might have launched the balloon intentionally to disrupt Mr. Blinken's trip to China.

His visit would have been the first such high level US-China meeting there in years.

Admiral Mullen rejected China's suggestion it might have blown off course, saying it was manoeuvrable because "it has propellers on it".

"This was not an accident. This was deliberate. It was intelligence," he added.

Relations between China and the US have been exacerbated by the incident, with the Pentagon calling it an "unacceptable violation" of its sovereignty.

The high-altitude balloon - thought to be the size of three buses - was shot out of the sky by a Sidewinder air-to-air missile fired from an F-22 jet fighter. It came down about six nautical miles off the US coast at 20:39 CET on Saturday.

US TV networks broadcast the moment the missile struck, with the giant white object falling to the sea after a small explosion.


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