Pentagon Releases U-2 Pilot’s Photo of Chinese Spy Balloon Before It Was Shot Down

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The Pentagon released a photo of the Chinese spy balloon on Wednesday taken by a U.S. Air Force pilot before it was shot down earlier this month.

The photo of the Chinese spy balloon hovering over the central continental United States was captured by a U-2 pilot on Feb. 3. The image depicts the pilot observing the suspect balloon from above.

The Chinese spy balloon was shot down by the Air Force the next day off the coast of South Carolina. The last of the debris was collected on Feb. 16 by U.S. Navy assets assigned to U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which oversees the defense for much of North America.

NORTHCOM said in a statement on Feb. 17 that the debris would be given to the FBI for analysis.

The incident set off an uproar in the United States and forced Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a planned visit to Beijing, which would have been the first trip a U.S. Secretary of State took to China in five years.

The Biden administration viewed the trip to China as an opportunity to improve relations that had deteriorated due to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in 2022.

The Biden administration has said it wants to maintain open lines of communication with Beijing even after it announced that the Chinese balloon, which hovered over U.S. airspace for longer than a week, was part of a worldwide surveillance program that impacts more than 40 nations, including Washington’s “closest allies and partners.”

“I expect to be speaking with President Xi, and I hope we are going to get to the bottom of this,” President Joe Biden stated at a Feb. 16 news conference, although he added that he makes “no apologies for taking down that balloon.”

US Condemned Chinese Incursion

Blinken ultimately met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 19.

By Caden Pearson

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