Federal lawmakers are demanding action to counter the “threat” posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was detected moving over northern states this week.
Members of Congress in both parties are calling the spy balloon an unacceptable violation of U.S. airspace and American sovereignty. The chairman and ranking member of the new select committee on China, Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., put out a joint statement Thursday condemning China ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing for talks with his Chinese counterpart.
“The Chinese Communist Party should not have on-demand access to American airspace. Not only is this a violation of American sovereignty, coming only days before Secretary Blinken’s trip to the PRC, but it also makes clear that the CCP’s recent diplomatic overtures do not represent a substantive change in policy. Indeed, this incident demonstrates that the CCP threat is not confined to distant shores – it is here at home and we must act to counter this threat,” the lawmakers said.
The House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party was formed with broad bipartisan support last month. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said the U.S. is in a “new Cold War” with China, and Republicans promised to establish the panel in the 118th Congress as a formal response to Chinese military and economic aggression.
On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder announced that the government detected a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental U.S.
Ryder said the government was closely monitoring the balloon and that it “does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”
“Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” Ryder said.
A senior defense official said the balloon was believed to have originated in China and that officials were considering shooting it down, but were reluctant to do so because of the risk of injuring people below with falling debris. President Biden was briefed on the situation and had asked for military options.
Chinese officials said their government is investigating reports of the suspected spy balloon and denied having any “intention to violate the territory and airspace of any sovereign countries.”
In response to the report, Speaker McCarthy requested a Gang of Eight briefing for Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders.
Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers are up in arms, accusing the Biden administration of encouraging Chinese aggression with weak foreign policy.
“It’s unacceptable to allow communist China to invade our airspace — this is another clear example of Chinese aggression. President Biden must start putting the American people first and recognize that China is a threat to our freedom, values, and way of life,” said Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Republican who represents Montana.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., tweeted, “Xi is blatantly spying on America because he does not fear or respect [President Biden]. Communist China is our enemy, and Biden needs to wake up and start acting like it.”
“Shoot. It. Down,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont. “The Chinese spy balloon is clear provocation. In Montana we do not bow. We shoot it down. Take the shot.”
Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged Secretary Blinken to confront China during his upcoming trip to Beijing and present a full report to Congress when he returns.
“This is a brazen violation of U.S. airspace and Americans’ privacy– and yet another example of China’s growing military aggression,” Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said. “With [Blinken] traveling to Asia this week, it’s imperative he tells Chairman Xi and his government that their military adventurism will no longer be tolerated.”
Fox News’ Adam Sabes contributed to this report.