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The Pentagon has released sensational photographs showing the Navy’s retrieval of a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down over the Atlantic Ocean.
The mission off the coast of South Carolina has taken days, and comes as relations between Beijing and Washington rapidly deteriorate after the high-altitude aircraft was shot down on Saturday.
Defense officials confirmed earlier this week that an amphibious warship, as well as several divers and underwater robots, had been deployed to survey a specific ‘square mile’ of ocean where the remains of the balloon were thought to be located.
Photos released Tuesday morning show the fruits of those efforts, with sailors assigned to Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group seen pulling out the wreckage from the ocean.
Beijing, meanwhile, insists the unconfirmed craft was deployed for ‘meteorological purposes’, and has spoken out vehemently against its destruction.
The Pentagon has released photos showing the Navy’s retrieval of a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down over the Atlantic Ocean
The spy balloon is seen drifting above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, on Saturday – with a fighter jet and its contrail seen below it
The US Fleet Forces shared the retrieval photos off the shores of Myrtle Beach on social media just after 10am, as citizens continue to voice concerns over the sighting.
A caption read: ‘Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach.’
Officials indicated the incredible images had been snapped on Sunday, shortly after Navy and Coast Guard officials descended on the stretch of ocean to find the fallen balloon.
The search began not long after debris from the craft hit the water Saturday, when President Joe Biden ordered a F-22 Raptor jet aircraft to bring it down.
At the time, defense officials confirmed that a Navy ship had arrived on the scene, and that a litany of other Navy and Coast Guard ships had been dispatched.
The very public post of an operation that in prior years may have been kept secret comes as American officials have said they are keeping their eyes on China for any retaliation – including potential strikes on American assets.
The downing of the balloon has sent both figurative and literal waves over the weekend, occurring at the end of a week that saw the craft spotted multiple times during its journey over the continental US.
Photos released Tuesday morning sailors assigned to Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group seen pulling out the wreckage of the unconfirmed spy craft from the open ocean
The unrest, for the most part, played out behind closed doors, as President Biden and other White House officials debated shooting down the suspect surveillance craft.
The public soon became aware of the sighting – as well as the possible implications it held in regards to the increasingly stormy relationship between the US and China.
The balloon, which was seen flying at an altitude tens of thousands feet higher than that of a commercial airliner, was eventually shot down on 2pm on Saturday.
Adding insult to injury, the Pentagon on Saturday confirmed that another ‘Chinese surveillance balloon’ had been spotted flying over Latin America, near the Colombian port city of Cartagena, and was being investigated.
Officials indicated the sensational images had been snapped on Sunday, shortly after Navy and Coast Guard officials descended on the stretch of ocean to search for the fallen balloon
The search off Myrtle Beach began not long after debris from the craft hit the water Saturday, shot down by a jet aircraft on the orders of Joe Biden. The balloon is seen being pulled out of the water by sailors on Sunday
General Glen VanHerck, the head of U.S. Northern Command, said on Monday that the Defense Department ‘did not detect’ the previous balloons, adding that the intelligence community was made aware of them through other means of information collection.
Defense officials then revealed there had been a further five suspected spy balloon sightings during Trump’s presidency, seemingly swept under the rug to keep up the façade of a favorable relationship between the two countries.
Compounding the unrest is that several similar balloons had also recently been spotted in at least two highly-sensitive military sites in Virginia and California – but were disregarded as UFOs at the time by the intelligence community.
Defense officials had already confirmed that a Navy ship had arrived on the scene, and that a litany of other Navy and Coast Guard ships had also been dispatched
A Coast Guard helicopter is seen flying over the debris field on Saturday, prior to the high-altitude surveillance balloon’s retrieval
The downing of the balloon has sent both figurative and literal waves over the weekend, occurring at the end of a week that saw the craft spotted multiple times during its journey over the continental US, with another balloon also seen over Latin America
China has not commented on those sighting, but maintains the craft shot down near South Carolina was a civilian balloon used for meteorological research.
Officials, however, have refused to say to which government department or company the balloon belongs.
Over the weekend, as Chinese officials continued to attest to their innocence, officials released images of the jet aircraft that brought down the unmanned balloon on Biden’s orders.
The balloon prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a highly-anticipated visit to Beijing that may have proved to smooth tempestuous relations between the two superpowers.
Seaman Rafael Mendez stands watch aboard the dock landing ship USS Carter Hall while a guided-missile destroyer and cruiser move alongside debris from the surveillance balloon
A Navy officer observes the debris field of the high-altitude surveillance balloon on Saturday
Defense officials have revealed a further five suspected spy balloon sightings during Trump’s presidency, seemingly swept under the rug to keep the façade of a favorable relationship between the two countries
The cancellation spurred a response from the China Daily, which claimed Biden and his cabinet had ‘overreacted’ to the incident, and even used it to their benefit as a political ploy to enflame tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Beijing, meanwhile, issued a chilling statement in response to Biden’s decision, saying it ‘reserves the right to make further responses if necessary’.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Tuesday reiterated that stance, arguing the ‘unmanned airship’ posed no threat and entered US airspace accidentally.
She criticized the U.S. for overreacting to the balloon sighting instead of addressing the situation in a ‘calm, professional’ manner, and chided Department of Defense officials for using force to bring the balloon down.
Chinese state media has accused the US of using the recent incident involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon as a political ploy to enflame tensions between Washington and Beijing
When asked if China wanted the debris returned, the rep only reasserted that the balloon ‘belongs to China’.
Republican leaders are now demanding both Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris resign over the latest incident.
David Stillwell, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs under the Trump administration, told DailyMail.com the balloon was likely form of mind game by Beijing ahead of the meeting between Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
‘This demonstrates a common tactic by Beijing to test others before important meetings.’
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Tuesday reiterated that stance, arguing that the ‘unmanned airship’ posed no threat and entered US airspace accidentally. When asked if Beijing wanted the debris returned, the rep only reasserted that the balloon ‘belongs to China’
He noted that in 2007 the Chinese shot an anti-satellite weapon before then-Defense Sec. Robert Gates arrived in the nation. The U.S. didn’t cancel, but ‘should have,’ Stillwell said.
‘Beijing loves playing in the gray area. Is this a surveillance operation? Is it a weather balloon? The fact is, it doesn’t matter,’ Stillwell said.
The spy balloon sightings are currently being probed by the Justice Department.
Source: DailyMail UK