Trump leads calls for Pentagon to shoot down the Chinese air balloon over Montana

“Shoot down the balloon,” the former president posted on Truth Social on Friday

Bevan Hurley
Friday 03 February 2023 14:34 GMT
'Chinese spy balloon' flies over US
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Donald Trump has called on the Pentagon to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon that Beijing says accidentally veered off course over the United States.

In a four word, all caps post on Truth Social on Friday morning, the former president wrote: “Shoot down the balloon.”

A group of Republican lawmakers had earlier demanded that the Biden Administration shoot the airship, which was spotted flying near to a Montana nuclear silo field, out of the sky.

“Shoot. It. Down. The Chinese spy balloon is clear provocation. In Montana we do not bow. We shoot it down. Take the shot,” Montana GOP Congressman Ryan Zinke tweeted.

The Pentagon decided not to shoot down the balloon because of concerns that the debris could injure people on the ground.

A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that the ballon was an unmanned, meteorological research ship that had blown over the United States by accident.

The spokesperson said that China regrets the apparent unintended entry of the airship into US airspace.

The balloon was spotted over the skies of Montana, which is home to one of the US’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. 

The diplomatic stand-off came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to make his first trip to Beijing this weekend.

Mr Blinken’s visit has not been formally announced, and it was not immediately clear if the balloon’s discovery would affect his travel plans, the Associated Press reported.

Senior defence officials in the US said on Thursday that Washington had scrambled fighter jets — including F-22s — and was ready to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon spotted in the skies but decided against it.

The Pentagon ultimately recommended against it, noting that even as the balloon was over a sparsely populated area of Montana, its size would create a debris field large enough that it could have put people at risk, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines had earlier called for an urgent security meeting over the Chinese spy balloon.

In a letter to Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Mr Daines said that he was “alarmed” that the balloon was able to infiltrate US airspace in the first place and demanded answers from the Biden administration.

“It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised US national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the US that this spy-balloon was utilising,” he wrote.

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