Republicans have slammed US President Joe Biden over his handling of the alleged Chinese “spy” balloon, after a US fighter aircraft shot down it off the coast of South Carolina, further straining taut relations with Beijing.
However, Democrats on Sunday defended Biden’s decision to shoot it down.
Republicans contended Biden’s dealing with the matter will damage US-Chinese ties.
“As usual when it comes to national defense and foreign policy, the Biden administration reacted at first too indecisively and then too late,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Twitter.
“We should not have let the People’s Republic of China make a mockery of our airspace,” he added.
Vice chair of the Senate intelligence committee Marco Rubio said that Biden’s delay in alerting the public to the balloon’s presence amounted to “dereliction of duty.”
Biden on Saturday congratulated US fighter pilots for taking down the balloon in the country’s airspace and above its territorial waters.
“They successfully took it down. And I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” Biden told reporters in Maryland.
The strike took place on Saturday afternoon after three southeastern airports in the US were temporarily shut down over what the Federal Aviation Administration called a “national security effort.”
The US military said it was working to recover debris and intelligence information from the Chinese “spy” balloon.
China has rejected US accusations and blasted the Pentagon’s strike.
Rubio called the balloon overflight as a brazen effort by China to embarrass Biden just before his State of the Union address Tuesday.
Representative Mike Turner, who chairs the US House intelligence committee, used a football analogy in criticizing Biden.
“Clearly the president taking it down over the Atlantic is… sort of like tackling the quarterback after the game is over,” he said on NBC.
“The satellite had completed its mission. It should never have been allowed to enter the United States.”
Democrats however defended Biden and called the Republican criticisms “premature and political.”
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, insisted the administration had “made the right call.”
“We sent a clear message to China that this is unacceptable,” he said in a statement. “We protected civilians. We gained more intel while protecting our own sensitive information.”
Beijing on Sunday blasted the Pentagon’s decision to shoot down the alleged Chinese spy balloon spotted flying over North America, accusing the United States of “clearly overreacting and seriously violating international practice”.
“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and protests against the use of force by the United States to attack the unmanned civilian airship,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that it would “reserve the right to make further necessary responses”.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it had “clearly requested that the United States properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner”.
Beijing said the United States “insisted on using force, clearly overreacting and seriously violating international practice”.
“China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant enterprises and reserve the right to make further necessary responses,” the ministry said in its statement.