By Hudson Crozier
On Saturday: The Pentagon shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Pacific Ocean that had entered and remained in U.S. airspace for days. China claimed the balloon was for weather research and had flown off course.
Why it matters: The incident has escalated tensions amid predictions that the U.S. could soon go to war with China over Taiwan. Chinese officials called the Pentagon’s move an “attack” and an “overreaction” and threatened “further responses” from the Chinese government. A Biden cabinet official postponed a meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, which would have been a first for the Biden administration.
More context: Chinese spy balloons have flown into the U.S. for years. The Pentagon recently disclosed that at least three entered U.S. airspace under former President Donald Trump but were never shot down or reported to the public. Some former Trump officials said they were never aware of this, and Trump himself denied that it happened.
Big picture: We don’t know why the balloon shot on Saturday entered American airspace. It floated over several states and came close to nuclear sites in Montana, but the government only took action after the public became aware of its presence through footage on social media and news reports. The Navy has been deployed to recover debris from the balloon.