‘We’ve got to draw the line somewhere’: Former US commander speaks about Chinese balloon being shot down

After the U.S. military shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of the Carolinas, people are curious as to what will happen next.

News4JAX spoke to retired U.S. Navy Admiral Robert Natter who said he hopes this situation doesn’t escalate into something potentially dangerous because that’s a situation that is not needed at this time.

However, Natter also acknowledged how important it was for the U.S. to take down the balloon and believes the Chinese government should have never sent the balloon into U.S. airspace.

“I would not like to see this escalated to anything else than what it is. Two different countries have got to make that decision,” Natter said. “But that last thing we need to do is this lead into some more serious confrontation.”

Natter said it was a “good idea” for the U.S. to shoot down the balloon saying, “We’ve got to draw the line somewhere.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China released a statement saying that the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” and that the balloon “deviated far from its planned course.”

“Cleary weather balloons are plausible but in this instance, that doesn’t ring true to me. They got a balloon that size that’s generally collecting weather data. I think that’s a ploy,” Natter said. “Quite simply, they could’ve been trying to send us a signal that these are our international rights and innocent passage of our ships in international waters.”

Although Natter said the process for the U.S. to analyze the debris from the balloon could take weeks or even months, he also said the government needs to explain why it took so long to shoot the balloon down and address what’s going to happen next.

“I think it’s appropriate for this administration to come out and say what their rationale for waiting was and what we should’ve been doing or were not doing. Thirdly, what we intended to do in the future,” Natter said.

About the Author:

Khalil Maycock joined the News4JAX team in November 2022 after reporting in Des Moines, IA.