Biden caused ‘global shame’ with ‘spy’ balloon response: Former Trump official

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (file photo by AP)

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has strongly criticized President Joe Biden for his delay in handling a suspected Chinese spy balloon that intruded into US airspace.

Pompeo criticized Biden during an exclusive interview with The Hill on Monday, saying the current administration had "made an enormous mistake" that had caused "global shame."

"I don't know what it collected… I don't know what signals intelligence it may have had. I don't know what imagery it may have been able to garner," he admitted.

But he added, "The whole world saw a slow-moving balloon transiting Montana, Kansas, South Carolina — and the United States of America did nothing."

A US military fighter jet brought down the "spy" balloon off the coast of South Carolina last Saturday, after it traversed the United States for several days. The US military had earlier said it had mobilized fighter jets but advised Biden against shooting the balloon out of the sky for fear debris could pose a safety threat to people on the ground.

Pompeo said the delay delivered "an enormous geopolitical advantage" for China.

"I can't imagine that the risk of some falling debris over a place like Montana exceeded the risk of global shame," he added.

The US alleged the unmanned balloon had been designed to detect and collect intelligence signals, but China insisted that it was used for meteorological and other scientific purposes and had strayed into US airspace accidentally.

Pompeo also strongly denied that he or any member of the administration of former US President Donald Trump had been aware of spy balloons entering US airspace during their time in power.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby claimed during a White House media briefing on Monday that the Trump administration had failed to "detect" the Chinese spy balloon program.

"We detected it. We tracked it," Kirby said.

Since February 4, US fighter jets have shot down four unidentified aerial objects over North America. The "spy" balloon was the only one so far attributed to China.

Kirby has said the authorities thus far haven't seen any indication that the other three objects were connected to China or any foreign country's spying program.

He, however, accused China of running a "well funded, deliberate program" to use high-altitude, hard-to-detect balloons for spying on the US and other countries.

Meanwhile, China has said that US "high-altitude balloons have undergone more than 10 illegal flights into Chinese airspace" since last year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called on the US to conduct a "thorough investigation" into the alleged string of incursions into the Chinese airspace. He also accused Washington of overreacting after noticing the Chinese weather balloon in American airspace.

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