The FAA restricted airspace to 60,000 feet over the Carolinas and paused departures to Wilmington, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston airports.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed the military downed the balloon at the direction of President Joe Biden, saying in a statement that the government believes the device was being used by the People’s Republic of China “in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.”
Austin said military officials determined that shooting it down over land “posed an undue risk” to Americans and instead made plans to bring it down safely over territorial waters.
The balloon, which US officials described as a “high-altitude surveillance balloon,” entered the continental airspace on Tuesday near Idaho before drifting over Montana.
Chinese officials claimed that the balloon was a civilian airship with “mainly meteorological purposes” and said it ended up over the US by accident. But State Secretary Antony Blinken said officials were “confident” that wasn’t the case.