US Navy ends Chinese spy balloon recovery operation
The U.S. Navy has ended operations to recover parts of the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down earlier this month over the ocean off the South Carolina coast, the U.S. Northern Command said Friday.
"Recovery operations concluded Feb. 16 off the coast of South Carolina, after U.S. Navy assets assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully located and retrieved debris from the high-altitude PRC surveillance balloon shot down Feb. 4, 2023," it said in a statement.
"Final pieces of debris are being transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in Virginia for counterintelligence exploitation, as has occurred with the previous surface and subsurface debris recovered," the statement said. "U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels have departed the area. Air and maritime safety perimeters have been lifted."
U.S. officials said Monday that a significant portion of the balloon's payload was recovered on Monday. The reconnaissance platform was estimated to be 30-feet-long and contained all of craft's tech gear and antennas.
In addition to the spy balloon, three other unidentified aerial objects were shot out of North American skies: one over Lake Huron, one over Canada and one over Alaska between Feb. 10 and Feb. 12.
Recovery operations have also ended for an object shot down over Lake Huron, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
"After conducting an extensive search in the Lake Huron area with the assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard and other domestic and international partners, a decision was reached to suspend the search due to several factors including deteriorating weather and the low probability of recovery," the RCMP said on Thursday.
President Joe Biden addressed the U.S. response to the aerial objects in a speech from the White House Thursday after facing calls from lawmakers on Capitol Hill for greater transparency.
Biden said he would "make no apologies for taking down" the Chinese surveillance balloon, calling it a "violation of our sovereignty."
The other three objects were taken down "out of an abundance of caution," Biden said, and don't appear to be spy vehicles from China or any other foreign country.
"The intelligence community's current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research," he said.
Several agencies are currently conducting a review to study broader policy implications for the U.S. detection and analyzation of unidentified aerial objects, and Biden said the review's findings will guide how the administration operates going forward.
"But make no mistake, if any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down," he said.