As Navy divers work to recover debris from the downed Chinese spy balloon, a top general said Monday that the U. S. is investigating whether it was carrying explosives, describing it as 200-feet tall, weighing thousands of pounds and with a payload the size of a jetliner.
'So, I can't confirm whether it had explosives or not. Anytime you down something like this, we make an assumption that that potential exists,' said Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U. S. Northern Command, on a briefing call with reporters.
'We did not associate the potential of having explosives with a threat to dropping weapons, those kinds of things, but out of a precaution, abundance of safety for not only our military people and the public, we have to make assumptions such as that.'
The general's description followed a briefing by National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, who defended President Joe Biden's decision to wait and shoot down the Chinese craft until it was over South Carolina's coastline on Saturday.
'Because the president decided they wouldn't shoot it down until he could do so safely - and that meant over water - that afforded us a terrific opportunity to gain a better understanding, to study the capabilities of this balloon,' he told reporters on a call.
Biden ordered the balloon shot down Wednesday, but under the advice of the U. S. military, it was held off until Saturday, with the Air Force sending an F-22 fighter jet armed with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile to do the job over water.
The delay opened Biden up to political attacks from Republicans, many of whom demanded it shot down above land shortly after it was first reported to be flying above Montana.
'The time that we had to study this balloon over the course of a few days last week, we believe was important and will give us a lot more clarity, not only on the capabilities that these balloons have, but what China is trying to do with them,' Kirby said.
'It hasn't gotten a lot of attention and I understand there's criticism over the fact that it traversed the United States, but again, we took steps to mitigate whatever collection capability that balloon would have over our sensitive military sites,' he added.... (Read more)
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