US

Flights have been suspended at several airports in the US as the country prepares to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

Flights have been paused at three airports including Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina because of a “national security effort”, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

The US has also temporarily blocked civilian flights within 100 square miles over the Atlantic Ocean and around the South Carolina coast.

The development comes after President Joe Biden said the US is “going to take care of” the suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over its airspace.

The balloon was spotted again on Saturday – this time over North Carolina.

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0:41

Balloon spotted over North Carolina

US officials said Mr Biden is moving ahead with plans to shoot down the balloon.

Sources told the AP news agency that the president plans to bring it down once it is above the Atlantic Ocean, where the remnants could potentially be recovered.

The discovery of the aircraft has stirred tensions and a diplomatic row between China and the US.

The US claims the craft is a suspected spy balloon and says it has committed a “clear violation” of its sovereignty.

A visit to China by US secretary of state Antony Blinken, during which he was to meet President Xi Jinping, was postponed following the sighting.

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The movement of Chinese ‘spy’ balloon

China insisted it is used for meteorological and other scientific research, and had been blown off course.

The contradicting lines from Beijing and Washington have created a void of uncertainty now being filled with theories, with some experts questioning why China would send it for reconnaissance, given that any intelligence gains from the craft would likely be extremely limited.

Others have said it could be a deliberate effort to embarrass or provoke the US, by showing how easily American airspace can be entered.

Its latest sighting comes after Mr Blinken spoke with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi about what had happened.

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Moment pilots spot Chinese ‘spy balloon’

Beijing said they discussed how to deal with accidental incidents in a calm and professional manner.

Also on Friday, the US defence department said the balloon poses “no physical or military threat” to civilians, and there is no risk of any nuclear or radioactive material on board.

Military leaders decided against shooting it out of the sky due to safety risk from falling debris.

Read more:
What are ‘spy balloons’ and what is their role?
The puzzling theories behind China’s ‘spy balloon’

The object is believed to have flown over the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of Alaska, and through Canada before entering the US earlier this week.

It is operating at 60,000ft and is manoeuvrable, the Pentagon has said.

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