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US House votes to condemn China over balloon surveillance

House lawmakers vote unanimously to condemn the Beijing government for its balloon surveillance program

Lisa Mascaro
Thursday 09 February 2023 17:29 GMT
Watch: Moment Chinese ‘spy balloon’ is shot down over South Carolina coast

The House voted unanimously Thursday to condemn China's balloon surveillance program as a “brazen violation” of US sovereignty, a rare and swift bipartisan rebuke of Beijing as questions mount about the craft the US says was part of a vast aerial spy program.

The 419-0 action comes as lawmakers clamoring for information about the white balloon that flew over American skies were being briefed by US officials in a classified session. The Senate held a hearing about the balloon, which crossed the United States before being shot down by US military jets last weekend.

“This resolution, I believe, sends a clear bipartisan signal to the CCP and our adversaries around the world that this action will not be tolerated,” said Republican US Rep Michael McCaul, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

In a Congress riven by partisan splits, the shared anxiety over China's stealthy balloon surveillance program and the reach of the Beijing's global military and economic force provided an unusual opening for bipartisan agreement in the debate.

The top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs panel, US Rep Gregory Meeks of New York, said, “It is now up to Beijing to demonstrate not just to the United States but to the world that it is serious about respecting international rules and law.”

The balloon flew from Alaska to the Atlantic Ocean, but the U.S. didn't shoot it down until it was over the Atlantic, off the South Carolina coast. That sparked bipartisan concerns, questions and outrage, some of it directed at President Joe Biden for not acting sooner. But the GOP-led House set criticism of Biden aside for now and focused instead on the People's Republic of China.

Demcoratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana, who chairs the Senate subcommittee holding a hearing on the balloon, said he wanted to know “exactly it flew – particularly in Montana because I’m very familiar with where the (missile) silos are – and questions like, Did it have capability to hover?”

"There are very few bipartisan issues in Washington these days, but our national concern about the PRC is one of them," said retired US Navy Admiral Harry Harris in testimony this week before the House Armed Services Committee.

“Make no mistake, that balloon was intentionally launched as a calculated show of force,” said Republican US Rep Mike Rogers, chair of the House Armed Services Committee. “We have to stop being naive about the threat we face from China.”

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