Buttigieg said the United States had to balance the risks when deciding when to bring the ball down
An F-22 stealth fighter shot down the balloon off the Carolinas a week after the United States began tracking it on January 28, POLITICO previously reported. The balloon crossed the continent in the following days, from Alaska to Canadian airspace, then over Idaho and Montana to the Atlantic. The US military is now trying to recover the debris for intelligence purposes.
Even as Republicans continued to criticize the Biden administration’s handling of the situation, Buttigieg stressed that the mission was completed with no loss of American life or property. The transport secretary has repeatedly called the balloon intrusion unacceptable behavior on the part of the Chinese government.
Pressed by host Jake Tapper whether the ball could be assumed to have gathered intelligence, Buttigieg said that was outside his purview.
“I’m sure there’s a similar presumption about what spy satellites do,” he said, pointing to China’s space program. He also declined to confirm exactly when the Biden administration first became aware of the ball.
On Sunday, Republicans continued to use Biden’s reaction to the ball as evidence of the administration’s perceived weakness; they were happy to see the ball shot down but argued that it should have been done a few days earlier.
“What started as a spy balloon became a trial balloon, testing President Biden’s strength and resolve, and sadly the president failed that test,” the senator said. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a frequent Chinese hawk, said Sunday on Fox’s “Fox News Sunday.” “And that’s dangerous for the American people.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Speaking on ABC’s ‘This Week’, repeatedly called the balloon deployment a ‘deliberate’ act by China, an attempt to show that the US is a fading superpower which its allies cannot count on in the Pacific and elsewhere.
“I can assure you that if we flew a balloon over China, they would shoot it down,” Rubio said. Speaking on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’, Rubio added that the United States had to consider the risks to civilians in downing the ball, but that there should have been opportunities earlier to knock him down.
Some of the criticism took the form of colorful language.
representing Mike Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, compared taking down the ball over the Atlantic to “going after the quarterback after the game is over.”
“They didn’t go to see the Grand Canyon. They went to see our nuclear weapons sites,” Turner said.
Speaking on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo”, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) was similarly descriptive.
“Letting a Chinese surveillance balloon drift lazily over America is like seeing a thief on your porch and inviting him in, showing him where you keep your safe, where you keep your guns, where your children sleep at night, then politely ask him to leave. It makes no sense,” said Gallagher, who is chairman of the House Select Committee on China.
A senior defense official noted this week that this is not the first time a Chinese spy balloon has entered US airspace, POLITICO previously reported. Such incidents occurred at least three times during President Donald Trump’s administration and once during the early Biden administration, but the thefts never lasted that long.
While grateful for the army action that brought down the balloon, Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the United States has challenges with China beyond this single incident.
“We have a real problem with China on a number of issues, from their human rights abuses to their violations of international trade law, to the challenges we’ve had with them over overt spying. “, did he declare.
Biden told the Pentagon earlier in the week to shoot down the balloon, but military advisers advised them to wait until it was over water, Biden told reporters this week.
China, which has denied the balloon was used for espionage, threatened repercussions for its downing.
A former CIA counterterrorism official said he thought the whole controversy had been absurdly exaggerated.
Speaking on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Philip Mudd rated the crisis a “2” on a scale of 1 to 10 when it comes to national security issues.
“It says a lot more about the inability of Washington, Congress and the White House to talk about relatively insignificant national security issues than it does about intelligence,” he said. “Look, if the Chinese want to collect pictures of America, you can go to Google Earth; you could get a secret Chinese satellite if they want to intercept communications. They could do it with satellites.