Suspected spy balloons from China crossed into the continental United States at least three times while Donald Trump was president, according to a statement Saturday by the Department of Defense citing an unnamed “senior defense official.”
“Chinese balloons briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration,” the statement said. The Associated Press also reported that one other balloon crossed into the U.S. earlier in the Biden administration.
None of those four incursions reportedly lasted as long as the trip by the suspected spy balloon that the U.S. military shot down Saturday. And none of the other balloons were apparently blown out of the sky, though that was not immediately confirmed.
In spite of the visits from possible spy balloons while Trump was in office, many Republicans have complained that President Joe Biden didn’t order the most recent balloon shot down quickly enough — or that he shouldn’t have allowed the balloon to enter U.S. airspace to begin with.
“Would Trump have let China fly a spy balloon over our country?” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked on Twitter.
Craig Singleton, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told AP that Chinese surveillance balloons were sighted several times in the past five years. Some of them have been spotted near U.S. military bases in Hawaii, he said, though he did not specify when.
In a message Friday on Truth Social, Trump himself joined the call for the Biden administration to destroy the most recent craft, saying: “SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON.” But he did not discuss his own administration’s experience with suspected Chinese spy balloons.
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and likely Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley also beat up on Biden for not taking more immediate action, but likewise failed to address incidents involving balloons in the last administration.