Republican lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to turn his attention to security concerns about the Chinese-backed social media app TikTok after the U.S. military shot down a ‘spy balloon’ from Beijing on Saturday.
The alleged surveillance device was shot down off the coast of South Carolina by American fighter jets after crossing over multiple U.S. states at a low enough altitude to be seen by the naked eye – alarming millions across the country.
The Air Force said on Saturday that it’s now beginning a ‘recovery’ operation for the fallen debris, which is expected to be ‘fairly easy’ given the shallow water it landed in.
‘Now blow up TikTok,’ he wrote on Twitter.
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
Officials said the first spy balloon that traveled across the U.S. fell six miles off the coast of South Carolina in waters about 47 feet deep. They noted that a proper salvage vessel won’t be on the scene for days as the race is on to secure the wreckage
Beijing’s government said on Sunday afternoon local time that the U.S.’s response to the balloon was an ‘overreaction’ and threatened a ‘similar’ situation if American surveillance devices were caught in Chinese airspace.
Rep. Mike Flood of Nebraska said on Twitter after the balloon was downed, ‘The CCP continues to expand its surveillance operations beyond its borders. First, it was TikTok and Huawei. Now, it’s floating balloons to spy on Americans in full view.’
‘The Biden Administration is projecting weakness by dragging its feet to stop their plans. America is at a crossroads and it’s time to draw a line in the sand: We will not allow the CCP to surveil, spy on, or harvest data from Americans,’ Flood said.
While the balloon inspired new fears of China’s surveillance power in recent days, calls to crack down on TikTok have echoed on both sides of the aisle since the Trump administration.
The U.S. intelligence community has raised national security concerns over TikTok, citing the Chinese government’s ability to track user data and influence millions who use the app daily.
The company has publicly denied such accusations, maintaining that it stores American users’ data in Virginia with a backup in Singapore.
Beijing’s Chinese Communist Party owns part of TikTok’s parent company Bytedance.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said Friday, ‘A big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let’s shut them all down.’
South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan compared the app to the recently downed spy balloon on Saturday morning and accused Biden of failing to stand up to both – though his post came hours before the alleged spy device was shot down.
An F-22 Raptor fighter jet fired a single AIM-9X missile to take down a Chinese spy balloon and its payload, which was equipped with cameras, sensors and radars
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz led GOP response on Saturday night in calling for President Biden to now crack down on another suspected Chinese spying device, TikTok
The president told reporters on Saturday that he ordered the balloon to be shot down the middle of last week
Meanwhile China says it ‘reserves the right’ to react similarly if such a situation occurred in its airspace
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said on Friday, ‘A big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let’s shut them all down’
‘The Chinese balloon is just “a weather balloon,” like TikTok is just a “social media app,”‘ he said, referring to Beijing’s explanations.
‘Both have nefarious intentions, are controlled by the CCP & shouldn’t be allowed to operate in the US. Biden is either too weak, too compromised, or too incompetent to stand up to China.’
Florida Senator Rick Scott shared a message for Americans at home: ‘f you don’t like the idea of Communist China flying a surveillance balloon over your neighborhood, why would you let the CCP have direct access to you and your family??’
‘Every time you get on TikTok, that’s exactly what’s happening. Keep your family safe and delete it ASAP,’ Scott said on Friday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military indicated it’s starting to collect the remnants of the Chinese ‘spy balloon’ it shot down on Saturday afternoon.
‘There are a number of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels establishing a security perimeter around the area where the balloon came to Earth,’ a statement from the Air Force read.
Defense officials estimated the balloon was about the size of three buses at a height of 120 feet, and that the debris field would be substantial, estimated at seven miles when it was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday
‘They are searching for debris, said a senior military official also speaking on background.’
The statement added, ‘There is no estimate for how long the recovery mission will take, the military official said, but the fact that it came down in such a shallow area should make a recovery “fairly easy.”‘
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN on Sunday that it fell within a seven-mile debris field in the Atlantic Ocean.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government blasted the U.S. shooting down the balloon as an ‘overreaction.’
‘The U.S. used force to attack our civilian unmanned airship, which is an obvious overreaction,’ said the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
‘We express solemn protest against this move by the US side.’
Beijing warned it ‘reserves the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations.’