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Suspected Chinese spy balloon was 200ft tall

A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon shot down off the US coast was about 200 ft (60m) tall and carrying an airliner-sized load, US officials say.

At a briefing on Monday, a US defence official said the size and make-up of the object informed the decision not to shoot it down while it was over land.

"Picture large debris weighing hundreds if not thousands of pounds falling out of the sky," Gen Glen VanHerck said.

The US is still working to recover debris off the coast of South Carolina.

Remnants of the object - which the US believes is a spy balloon but China says is a weather monitoring device blown astray - have been collected from a roughly 1,500m (4,920 ft) by 1,500m sized area, but it is thought debris is spread over a far larger site.

Multiple fighter jets were involved in the operation to shoot it down, but only one US Air Force F-22 took the shot at 14:39 local time (19:39 GMT) on Saturday days after it first appeared over US territory. It sent debris hurtling down about six nautical miles off the US coast.

"They have recovered some remnants off the surface of the sea and weather conditions did not permit much undersea surveillance of the debris field," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday.

He said US personnel would "in the coming days be able to get down there and take a better look at what's on the bottom of the ocean, but it's just started".

There is no plan to give the remnants back to China, officials said, adding that the retrieved debris would be analysed by intelligence experts.

The US believes the balloon was being used to monitor sensitive military sites.

"This was not an accident. This was deliberate. It was intelligence," he added.


Do you think the US should have engaged and shot down Chinese equipment? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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