Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command, has gone on record and discussed the threats the United States of America faces from the Chinese Communist Party.
During a call with reporters, VanHerck revealed that the ‘weather’ balloon, which was suspected of being a spying device, actually carried explosives to destroy itself, adding a shocking new layer of urgency to the story.
He described the sinister size of the device as being “200 feet tall, weighing thousands of pounds, and its payload was the size of a jetliner”.
“Because the president decided they wouldn’t shoot it down until he could do so safely, and that meant over water, that afforded us a terrific opportunity to gain a better understanding, to study the capabilities of this balloon,” he told reporters on a call.
“His description followed a briefing by National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, who defended President Joe Biden’s decision to wait and shoot down the Chinese craft until it was over South Carolina’s coastline on Saturday,” the Daily Mail reported. “Biden ordered the balloon shot down Wednesday, but the U.S. military held off until Saturday, with the Air Force sending an F-22 fighter jet armed with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile to do the job.”
“Chinese spy balloon carried EXPLOSIVES to destroy itself,” Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) posted on Twitter on February 6, 2023.
Martin Walsh reported for Conservative Brief about further developments to the story of the payload:
A former top U.S. Army general had harsh words for the way President Joe Biden handled the situation with a Chinese spy balloon caught traversing the upper and central United States last week.
Former Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army and retired four-star General Jack Keane blasted Biden for not taking action sooner, allowing the balloon to drift over the breadth of the country before ordering it shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.
Keane made his remarks during an interview with Fox News after the balloon was splashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
“Remember, this was approaching the United States over water,” he said. “It was approaching the Aleutian Islands over water. And we had plenty of opportunity to take it down then. And that’s when it should have happened. We had to be tracking it from mainland China across the Pacific Ocean, and we had plenty of warning to put together an operation that we are conducting now on the east coast that should have been done there.”
Here is a partial transcript of what unfolded during the segment:
ARTHEL NEVILLE, FOX NEWS HOST: Yeah, I heard your last point there. And I want to say, as we’re watching this exclusive coverage of this Chinese spy balloon going down there over Surfside Beach, South Carolina, if you could talk to us about what happened in terms of coordinating this to get to this point now, General Keane.
GENERAL JACK KEANE: Well, we’ve had all of our sensors watching this, you know, for some time. And certainly our military capability that was going to be involved got alerted. People have been planning it likely for a couple of days. I’m assuming the president, you know, made a decision within the last 24 hours to take this out. They probably presented him with a number of options of where the best place to do it, certainly heading to the East Coast, which is considerably more populated than Montana was. It was probably ruled out that they would do anything over land. If they weren’t willing to do it over Montana, they’re certainly not going to do it on the East coast of the United States or in transit to the East Coast. And they’re taking advantage of obviously doing this safely in terms of civilians.
And it’s not a complicated operation, I don’t believe, for the United States military to take a balloon moving at the speed it’s moving at and bring it down. So the coordination to do that and the intelligence to bring all of that together is not a major problem for us at all. Now, can we recover the sensor package? That’s going to be iffy, given the size of this thing and how much it weighs. But nonetheless, we finally did what we should have done at the beginning. Remember, this was approaching the United States over water. It was approaching the Aleutian Islands over water.
And we had plenty of opportunity to take it down then. And that’s when it should have happened. We had to be tracking it from mainland China across the Pacific Ocean, and we had plenty of warning to put together an operation that we are conducting now on the east coast that should have been done there.
Meanwhile, China reacted angrily to the downing of the balloon, claiming in a diplomatic statement following the shoot-down that Beijing could “respond further.
By Tuesday morning America also found out that the Chinese balloons are somewhat commonplace and that our intel agencies and Pentagon know about them.
CNN reported with details of past balloons and conflicting reports about how much danger we were in:
“Every day as a NORAD commander, it’s my responsibility to detect threats to North America. I will tell you that we did not detect those threats,” Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command said when asked about the three other balloons.
“And that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out, but I don’t want to go into further detail.”
VanHerck added that the intelligence community after the fact was able to gather intelligence “from additional means that made us aware of those balloons that were previously approaching North America or transited North America.”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also said on Monday that past surveillance balloons were discovered at the beginning of the Biden administration because Biden directed the intelligence community “to increase both our vigilance and the assets that we were deploying to be able to detect Chinese efforts to spy against the United States.”
“Because the intelligence community made this a priority at the direction of President Biden, we enhanced our surveillance of our territorial airspace, we enhanced our capacity to be able to detect things that the Trump administration was unable to detect,” Sullivan said.
“And were also able to go back and look at the historical patterns. And that led us to come to understand that during the Trump administration, as you said, there were multiple instances where the surveillance balloons traversed American airspace and American territory,” he added.