US Navy shares first images of shot-down Chinese balloon

US officials say it is 60 metres wide and tall, with a payload underneath weighing more than 900kg

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The US Navy on Tuesday shared images from the operation to recover pieces of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon the military shot down at the weekend.

The photos show US Navy sailors on small boats in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group began salvaging parts of the “high-altitude surveillance balloon” on Sunday, the day the photos were taken.

US President Joe Biden issued orders to shoot down the balloon last Wednesday. It was first seen in US airspace over Alaska on January 28.

The US military advised waiting until the object arrived at a place where it was safe to shoot down without the risk of debris harming people below.

China has claimed that the vessel was a civilian balloon for meteorology research, which floated off course.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday confirmed that propellers and steering gave the vessel some control, which is not typical of weather balloons.

"It is true that this balloon had the ability manoeuvre itself, to speed up, to slow down and to turn," Mr Kirby said.

"So it had propellers, it had a rudder, if you will, to allow it to change direction. But the most important navigational vector was the jet stream itself, the winds at such a high altitude."

US fighter jet shoots down suspected China spy balloon

In this photo provided by Chad Fish, the remnants of a large balloon drift above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, with a fighter jet and its contrail seen below it, Saturday, Feb.  4, 2023.  The downing of the suspected Chinese spy balloon by a missile from an F-22 fighter jet created a spectacle over one of the state’s tourism hubs and drew crowds reacting with a mixture of bewildered gazing, distress and cheering.  (Chad Fish via AP)

US officials said they were studying the debris of the vessel, which was 60 metres wide and the same distance tall, to learn more about China's surveillance operations.

Beijing filed a formal complaint with Washington and said the US was responsible for an "attack on a Chinese civilian unmanned airship by military force".

It said China could "take further action” against the US's “obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice".

The two superpowers have long experienced strained relations affecting economic communications, climate change efforts, technology and military operations.

After the incident, Washington postponed Secretary of State Antony Blinken's trip to Beijing, which would have made him the highest-ranked US official to visit in years.

Updated: February 08, 2023, 5:12 PM