The United States today shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the country's east coast, the Pentagon said. Earlier this week, US had claimed that the balloon was spying on sensitive military sites across North America.
"Today's deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President (Joe) Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC's unacceptable violation of our sovereignty," Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
Footage on local media showed a small explosion, which was followed by the balloon descending toward the water. The operation was planned in a manner that all the debris falls into the ocean. Ships had been deployed to recover as much of the debris as possible.
Hours before the balloon was shot down, US President Joe Biden had vowed to "take care" of the balloon.
Asked by reporters to comment on relations with China and the balloon incident, Biden told reporters, "We're gonna take care of it."
The balloon was initially detected entering US airspace on January 28. The white orb lingered over Montana, the site of intercontinental-ballistic-missile silos, and made its way across the country to North Carolina on Saturday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry had on Friday confirmed that the balloon belonged to China, but said that it was a civilian airship conducting climate research and accidentally blew off course.
American officials did not shoot it down earlier over concerns of hurting people or property on the ground.