(CBrief) – A former top U.S. Army general had harsh words for the way President Joe Biden handled the situation with a Chinese spy balloon caught traversing the upper and central United States last week.
Former Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army and retired four-star General Jack Keane blasted Biden for not taking action sooner, allowing the balloon to drift over the breadth of the country before ordering it shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.
Keane made his remarks during an interview with Fox News after the balloon was splashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
“Remember, this was approaching the United States over water,” he said. “It was approaching the Aleutian Islands over water. And we had plenty of opportunity to take it down then. And that’s when it should have happened. We had to be tracking it from mainland China across the Pacific Ocean, and we had plenty of warning to put together an operation that we are conducting now on the east coast that should have been done there.”
Here is a partial transcript:
ARTHEL NEVILLE, FOX NEWS HOST: Yeah, I heard your last point there. And I want to say, as we’re watching this exclusive coverage of this Chinese spy balloon going down there over Surfside Beach, South Carolina, if you could talk to us about what happened in terms of coordinating this to get to this point now, General Keane.
GENERAL JACK KEANE: Well, we’ve had all of our sensors watching this, you know, for some time. And certainly our military capability that was going to be involved got alerted. People have been planning it likely for a couple of days. I’m assuming the president, you know, made a decision within the last 24 hours to take this out. They probably presented him with a number of options of where the best place to do it, certainly heading to the East Coast, which is considerably more populated than Montana was. It was probably ruled out that they would do anything over land. If they weren’t willing to do it over Montana, they’re certainly not going to do it on the East coast of the United States or in transit to the East Coast. And they’re taking advantage of obviously doing this safely in terms of civilians.
And it’s not a complicated operation, I don’t believe, for the United States military to take a balloon moving at the speed it’s moving at and bring it down. So the coordination to do that and the intelligence to bring all of that together is not a major problem for us at all. Now, can we recover the sensor package? That’s going to be iffy, given the size of this thing and how much it weighs. But nonetheless, we finally did what we should have done at the beginning. Remember, this was approaching the United States over water. It was approaching the Aleutian Islands over water.
And we had plenty of opportunity to take it down then. And that’s when it should have happened. We had to be tracking it from mainland China across the Pacific Ocean, and we had plenty of warning to put together an operation that we are conducting now on the east coast that should have been done there. And by the way, we have alert aircraft in Alaska for the principal reason of a penetration coming largely from Russia, and that’s why that aircraft are there.
And they would have been able to respond to this when it approached the United States in name of the Aleutian Islands. Now we’re doing it in the backdoor when it’s leaving the United States — it’s anti-climatic in that sense, but it still sends a message to China that we’re not going to let you get away with this nonsense.
Meanwhile, China reacted angrily to the downing of the balloon, claiming in a diplomatic statement following the shoot-down that Beijing could “respond further,” The New York Post reported.
“In these circumstances, for the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention,” China said to The Post. “China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further.”