The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Friday that Americans are not in immediate danger from the Chinese spy balloon detected in U.S. airspace, but that its presence was a violation of American sovereignty and is concerning.
Appearing on NBC News’ “Meet the Press NOW,” ranking member Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., told host Chuck Todd he is waiting for the Foreign Affairs Committee to get classified briefings from the Biden administration with “all the facts” before concluding that the People’s Republic of China sent a surveillance balloon to the U.S. intentionally.
“What I do know is what they’ve told us, that there is no imminent danger from this balloon. That it’s danger[ous] taking it down just because of damage that could hit the ground,” Meeks said.
“It’s concerning to me still because a balloon floating across the ocean and going around into areas of sensitivity for us, you’ve got to be concerned,” he continued.
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The Pentagon announced on Thursday that the U.S. government detected a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental U.S. The balloon was first spotted over Montana, where the Malmstrom Air Force Base stores U.S. nuclear weapons.
A second balloon was detected flying over Latin America, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Friday night.
Senior State Department officials said the government was “confident” the balloons belonged to China. They called the intrusion on U.S. airspace “unacceptable” and a “clear violation of our sovereignty, as well as national law.”
China’s foreign ministry acknowledged the balloon came from their country, but said it was a civilian weather balloon that blew off course.
U.S. officials dispute the PRC’s claims. A senior U.S. official told Fox News, “this was intentional.”
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President Biden has resisted calls from Republican lawmakers to shoot the balloon down, with administration officials observing that falling debris would hit the earth at meteoric speeds and potentially cause casualties. The balloon is said to be the size of three greyhound buses and has heavy equipment hanging underneath it.
In response to the incident, Secretary of State Antony Blinken indefinitely postponed his planned trip to China this weekend for a meeting with top Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping.
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Meeks said Blinken did the “right thing” by canceling his trip.
“It’s a violation of our sovereignty to have a flying object over here in the United States,” he said.
The congressman said the balloon should not be allowed to leave U.S. airspace before the government can examine it to “verify that it is what the Chinese are saying it is, a weather balloon.”
Meeks called the situation “very tense” and said that “dialogue and diplomacy” must “continue to have a place.”