GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – China said Friday that a balloon spotted over American airspace was used for weather research and was blown off course, despite U.S. suspicion it was spying. The discovery further strained already tense relations between Beijing and Washington.
The Pentagon decided not to shoot down the balloon, which was potentially flying over sensitive sites, because of concerns about hurting people on the ground, something U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District Mike Gallagher completely disagrees with.
“We should’ve shot it down well before it got over the continental United States,” explained Gallagher in a Zoom meeting with Local 5 News. “The fact that it was seen in the vicinity of Malmstrom Air Force Base, where we have sensitive nuclear capabilities, should be incredibly troubling.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to make his first trip to Beijing this weekend, but in lieu of the balloon discovery, he’s opted out of that trip.
“I was glad to see the Secretary of State postpone his visit to Beijing, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened at the same time Secretary Blinken was going to Beijing,” added Gallagher. “This is part of the CCP playbook, they love to embarrass our diplomats, they love to play multi-dimensional chess, and so postponing the visit was the right move.”
Gallagher continued on to tell Local 5 News that he believes Blinken should cancel the visit in full and make those he was meeting with in Beijing fly over to the United States and apologize for the balloon.
The defense official said the U.S. has assessed that the balloon has “limited” value in terms of providing intelligence that couldn’t be obtained by other technologies, such as spy satellites, but Gallagher insists that it should be shot down safely as soon as possible.
“It’s a massive embarrassment. It makes us look weak,” stated Gallagher. “I’ve been unsatisfied with the response, and I think this tells us something fundamental about the nature of the regime that we’re dealing with in Beijing.”
The balloon’s appearance adds to national security concerns among American lawmakers over China’s influence in the U.S., ranging from the prevalence of the hugely popular smartphone app TikTok to purchases of American farmland.