Balloons similar to the one that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina this weekend flew over the U.S. at least three times during the Trump administration, according to a senior U.S. defense official.
As Republicans spent the past few days criticizing the Biden administration over its response to the suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew across the country, an official revealed during a briefing on Saturday that the U.S. was aware of three other instances during the prior administration and one instance earlier in the Biden administration that such an apparatus “transited” the country.
“PRC [People’s Republic of China] government surveillance balloons transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration but never for this duration of time,” said a senior defense official. “We spoke directly with Chinese officials through multiple channels, but rather than address their intrusion into our airspace, the PRC put out an explanation that lacked any credibility.”
Biden authorized the missile strike that shot down the balloon Saturday. Republican lawmakers have been arguing that the response should have come sooner, but military officials warned the president that the best time to take down the balloon was when it was over water, citing the risk of damage to people and property if it was shot down over land. Biden told reporters he wanted it shot down when he learned it entered U.S. airspace last week.
Trump denied the revelation by defense officials that Chinese balloons flew over the U.S. during his administration, calling it “disinformation.”
“The Chinese Balloon situation is a disgrace, just like the Afghanistan horror show, and everything else surrounding the grossly incompetent Biden Administration,” Trump said in a post on his Truth Social site. “They are only good at cheating in elections, and disinformation — and now they are putting out that a Balloon was put up by China during the Trump Administration, in order to take the ‘heat’ off the slow moving Biden fools. China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for this to have happened, and it NEVER did. JUST FAKE DISINFORMATION!”
Defense officials also countered an explanation by the Chinese that the balloon was blown off course.
“This surveillance balloon purposefully traversed the United States and Canada. And we are confident it was seeking to monitor sensitive military sites. Its route over the United States, near many potential sensitive sites, contradicts the PRC government’s explanation that it was a weather balloon,” the official said, adding that additional balloons have been spotted over Central America and South America.