China says it reserves right to respond to downing of surveillance balloon
The balloon's flight over the U.S. added tension to the U.S.-China relationship.
A massive Chinese surveillance balloon that moved across the continental U.S. this week has been shot down.
The Pentagon has confirmed the balloon was being used for surveillance, disputing China's claim that it was a civilian aircraft used for meteorological purposes. Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the balloon didn't pose a physical or military threat, and once it was detected, the U.S. took steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.
The FBI is expected to take custody of any recovered components of the balloon and ship them to its lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis and intelligence gathering, a senior government official told ABC News.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to China as the balloon's presence over the continental U.S. added new tension to the U.S.-China relationship. Blinken called the balloon a "clear violation" of U.S. sovereignty and international law.
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'The whole house just shook': Witness tells of balloon take down
A South Carolina woman had a front row seat to the military missile strike on a suspected Chinese spy balloon, describing a "loud boom" that rattled her home.
"It literally just flew right over our development, our house," the witness, Liane Munier of Myrtle Beach, told ABC News. "As soon as I walked outside, I literally looked straight up in the sky and it was right above my head."
Munier said it appeared the balloon traveled just offshore when several military fighter jets swooped in and shot it down.
"I was outside, I was watching it. You saw all the fighter jets flying around it and circling it, you saw all the air streams. I think there were about five of them. I went back inside for a second and all of a sudden the whole house just shook that it was like a loud boom," said Munier, who recorded video of the midair episode on her cell phone.
Munier said she initially thought a TV fell off the wall in her daughter's upstairs bedroom, but when she went back outside, she saw smoke in the sky and "you saw the whole thing deflated."
"I knew they were planning on shooting it down, but I didn't think it would be this soon and this close to land," Munier said.
She said it was a relief to her and many of her neighbors to see the balloon shot out of the sky.
"It was nerve-wracking seeing it fly over," Munier said. "I'm sure the whole country felt like that, not knowing what it was."
US pushes back against China’s weather balloon claims
A senior U.S official has pushed back against China's claim that their balloon was simply for the weather and that it was indeed intended for surveillance.
"Its route over the United States near many potentially sensitive sites contradicts the PRC government explanation that it is a weather balloon," a senior administration official said.
The official noted that the suspected spy balloon was also not only operating in the U.S. but spotted over five continents.
"Both balloons also carry surveillance equipment not usually associated with standard meteorological activities or civilian research. Collection pod equipment and solar panels located on the metal truss suspended below the balloon are a prominent feature of both balloons," the official said.
-ABC News' MaryAlice Parks
China expresses 'strong discontent and protest' after balloon downing
The Chinese foreign ministry criticized the United States for downing its balloon.
"China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and protest against the U.S. using force to attack civilian unmanned airships," the statement said.
The ministry asserted that they told the U.S. that the suspected spy balloon was an airship "for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure, which was completely accidental. China clearly requires the US to handle it properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner."
China noted that the U.S. Department of Defense stated that the balloon did not pose a military or personal threat.
"In these circumstances, for the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention," the statement said. "China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further."
Mayor of Myrtle Beach criticizes balloon downing
The mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has criticized the government for its handling of downing the suspected spy balloon.
Mayor Brenda Bethune wrote "While this was done in a manner that ensured the safety of our citizens, I do have concerns about how the federal government can allow a foreign adversary to fly uninterrupted from Montana to our doorstep."
Bethune added that she wanted the government to be more forthcoming about the circumstances surrounding the balloon.
"I hope we hear from our federal government how this happened and how they will prevent this, or anything like it, from happening again," she wrote.