President Biden and his administration knew for nearly a week that a Chinese spy balloon was hovering in U.S. airspace — but kept the incursion secret, fearing it would derail Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.
Republicans expressed “outrage” over the president’s refusal to act.
“Communist China’s surveillance balloon violates international law and threatens our homeland,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) told The Post.
“It’s an outrage that the Biden Administration spotted this balloon days ago as it was flying over the Aleutian Islands and did nothing about it,” she said. “The president has not even made a comment about this unacceptable act of aggression by the CCP.”
The politics of the looming 2024 presidential election also played a role in Biden’s actions, sources told Bloomberg, with the fraught US-China relationship expected to be a central foreign policy issue.
Team Biden became aware of the balloon on Jan. 28, Bloomberg reported, when it was spotted over Alaska.
The US military tracked it as it flew into Canadian airspace, then re-entered American skies on Tuesday. The next day, Biden received a detailed briefing on the balloon and its course, attended by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
Sources told Bloomberg that Milley and Austin argued against shooting the craft down due to the danger its debris could pose to the public. Biden initially wanted it destroyed, but acquiesced, according to the report.
But the president also chose to conceal the crisis from the American public. Instead, his administration sought an explanation from the Chinese embassy in Washington — while making finishing touches on plans for Blinken’s diplomatic visit to China on Sunday.
The administration finally came clean to the public Thursday, after the Billings Gazette, a local Montana paper, published photos of the floating orb and the story jumped into the national media.
“Not gonna lie,” tweeted witness Chase Doak, whose video of the high-flying spying platform went viral. “First, I thought this was a #ufo. Then, I thought it was @elonmusk in a Wizard of Oz cosplay scenario. But it was just a run-of-the-mill Chinese spy balloon!”
The uproar forced Blinken to postpone his trip indefinitely, while China repeatedly insisted that the “airship” was meant for meteorological research and had been innocently blown off course.
Former president Donald Trump, ex-veep Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley have all demanded that the balloon be shot down, accusing Biden of weakness against Beijing.