The Pentagon confirmed that the Chinese balloon was shot down in the waters off South Carolina

- An American F-22 fighter jet shot down the Chinese balloon that had been flying over the United States for several days and unacceptably violated American sovereignty, the US Department of Defense announced last night.

-This afternoon, on the order of President Biden, a US fighter jet (…) shot down a high-altitude spy plane launched by the People's Republic of China in the airspace over the waters off the coast of South Carolina, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

"Joe Biden will always make the security of Americans his priority and thus respond effectively to the unacceptable violation of our sovereignty," added the statement, which was reported by the French media.

The US military said last night it would try to quickly find key components of a Chinese observation balloon among debris off the coast of South Carolina after it was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet.

- The search is ongoing. How long it will last remains to be determined, a senior US defense official said, adding that the wreckage is in relatively shallow water.

A senior military official said he expected the reassembly of the balloons would not take weeks or months but would be relatively quick.

The balloon was discovered on Wednesday over the state of Montana, where 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads are stored at a military base in the north, and the Pentagon said the president had authorized the takedown the same day.

"President Biden on Wednesday issued authorizations to bring down the spy balloon as soon as conditions are met to carry out the mission without endangering American lives," Austin added.

Earlier yesterday, China rejected accusations of espionage, saying it was a research balloon that veered off course due to "force majeure" and accused US politicians and the media of using the situation to smear China, British media reported, adding that a representative of US Defense explained that the Chinese balloon is part of a surveillance balloon fleet that conducts espionage on five continents.

- The Chinese balloon was not a meteorological balloon, but a spy balloon with the task of obtaining data on sensitive military locations, said a representative of the US defense.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that traffic has resumed at three airports in South Carolina: Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Charleston, after traffic was previously suspended "for safety reasons".

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called the incursion of a "surveillance balloon" into US airspace "unacceptable" and "irresponsible" and canceled a visit to Beijing planned for Sunday.

The Pentagon said on Friday that a second Chinese balloon had been spotted in Latin America, but did not specify the exact location.

Both the US and China have used surveillance satellites to track each other from the air for decades.

"In some ways, it's more amateurish," said former White House national security adviser John Bolton. "Are the cameras on their satellites not high enough resolution that they have to send up a balloon?"

The uproar over the balloon comes as China builds up its military capabilities and challenges the US military presence in the Pacific.

The US also believes that Beijing is trying to obtain commercial information and take know-how from US companies.

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