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The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for several major airports in North Carolina and South Carolina Saturday afternoon in a “national security effort” as a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon is believed to float overhead.
The ground stop, which is in effect until 2:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon, applies to three airports in Wilmington, North Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Pilots are not able to operate any aircraft during the ground stop, which comes several hours after a Charlotte, North Carolina, NBC affiliate reported the massive balloon had been spotted over the city.
U.S. officials believe the balloon is being used as part of a Chinese spy mission, although China’s Foreign Ministry denied the claim, saying it’s a civilian weather balloon that drifted west.
This is a developing story.
The balloon was first spotted over Billings, Montana, on Thursday, sparking outrage that China could be using the balloon to conduct surveillance operations over the continental U.S., and leading GOP lawmakers to call on the Biden Administration to shoot down the balloon, though President Joe Biden had reportedly been advised against that plan, with advisors warning it could be dangerous for people on the ground. Following the initial report on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his highly-anticipated trip to Beijing, as tensions between the U.S. and China continue to sour.
What We Don’t Know
What the Biden Administration will do with the balloon. White House officials are considering a plan to shoot it down once it passes over Carolina’s Outer Banks and into federal waters, where it could be recovered, the Associated Press reported, citing officials familiar with the matter. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also suggested officials collect it and “see what [China is]
collecting and hold Xi [Jinping] accountable.”
Chinese Spy Balloon Updates: Biden Knew Earlier, Craft Possibly Seen Over North Carolina And May Be Shot Down Over Atlantic (Forbes)
China Says Alleged Spy Balloon Hovering Over U.S. Is Actually A ‘Civilian Airship’ Blown Off Course (Forbes)
Where Is The Chinese Spy Balloon? Reports Say It Moved Over St. Louis Area (Forbes)