The Chinese spy balloon shot down over US waters in the Atlantic off South Carolina on Saturday was not the only one to have entered US airspace in the past six years.
At least three others made inroads during Republican Donald Trump's tenure, according to the Pentagon.
This statement has added fuel to the fire to a harsh exchange of reproaches between Democrats and Republicans about how the demolition was managed.
This Sunday, divers from the US Navy were looking for the fragments of the collapsed balloon in an area of eleven kilometers wide and fourteen meters deep off the coast of Horry County, South Carolina.
Unmanned boats that can descend are also used to recover the structure and rebuild it on the rescue ship," an official told CNN television.
The Pentagon calculates that it will be a relatively simple operation and that it will not take long.
The incursion of the balloon and its downing by a missile launched by an F-22 fighter in US territorial waters of the Atlantic on Saturday has opened a new diplomatic crisis between the US and China.
Beijing, which assures that it was a civilian meteorological "ship" that got lost due to force majeure, has described the military action as "excessive reaction".
The United States insists that it was a device with espionage functions, which carried surveillance equipment.
The case has also raised eyebrows in sharply divided US politics.
It has come at a key moment: on Tuesday, Biden appears before both houses of Congress on the most solemn occasion of the legislative year to deliver his State of the Union address, where he will present his government priorities for this year.
It is also expected that in a matter of weeks he will formally announce whether he is running for re-election in the 2024 presidential elections.
Perhaps with the mind of the Republican critics, who throughout the week have accused the White House of weakness in its handling of the incident, Biden, the Pentagon and other senior government officials have stressed that the president already gave the order to demolish the device "as soon as possible".
But it had to be done without putting the population at risk.
So the balloon, first detected in Alaska on January 28, was hovering over Montana.
The recommendation he received was to wait for the artifact to reach the Atlantic.
Its size, the height at which it was located (18,300 meters) and the volume of its cargo meant that the risk of its fragments falling on the population or leaving material damage was too great, even in one of the most sparsely populated states in the country.
The Republican opposition has lashed out at the government's response to the raid.
In his opinion, the balloon should have been shot down much sooner, rather than being allowed to float for five days over US airspace, risking it collecting valuable intelligence.
"It should never have been allowed to enter the United States, and it should never have been allowed to complete its mission," House Intelligence Committee leader Mike Turner told NBC television.
Legislator Tom Cotton, of the Senate Intelligence Committee, pointed out to the Fox network that "we should have shot him down when he was passing through the Aleutians (in Alaska) instead of letting him wander through half the United States so happily."
Senator Marco Rubio, from Florida, considered that the case constituted a "neglect of functions" by the Government, in an intervention on CNN.
The Defense Department, on the other hand, has congratulated itself on the success of the demolition mission and has assured through its head, Lloyd Austin, that the option chosen was the best one to guarantee the safety of people on the mainland.
A high military commander who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity specified that "the passage of the spy balloon over US territory has been valuable" to gather intelligence data on its operation.
"We were able to study and examine the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable."
The Pentagon has stressed that this is not the first time that a Chinese device of this type has entered US territory in recent years.
China, he maintains, maintains a fleet of these devices, which have been seen in countries on five continents: one sighted this week in Latin America was floating over Colombia on Sunday.
The aforementioned military high command on Saturday specified that three balloons "briefly crossed US airspace during the tenure of the previous Administration," headed by Donald Trump.
The previous president has flatly denied it.
China had "too much respect" for him to dare such a step and "NEVER did it", he has assured on his Truth Social social network.
“The Chinese balloon thing is a shame, like the Afghanistan horror show and everything that surrounds the tremendously incompetent Biden Administration,” he pointed out.
“Now they publish that China sent a balloon during the Trump Administration, to take the spotlight off Biden’s slow fools.”
His former director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, has also rejected the Pentagon's claim.
Democratic lawmakers have rushed to defend the White House.
“Creating another standard for Biden when Trump, it seems, let that move over the United States is a bit hypocritical,” said Senator Cory Booker, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
The leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, Charles Schumer, has revealed that the Pentagon will offer a briefing to the upper house on the incursion of the balloon this week on the 15th.
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