February 3, 2023 5:33pm
Updated: February 3, 2023 5:45pm
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley on Friday called for a Senate investigation into the Biden administration's "baffling response" to the arrival of a suspected Chinese spy balloon into U.S. airspace.
In a letter to Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the Republican lawmaker dubbed the balloon's unimpeded cruise across the United States "a gross violation of American sovereignty," according to The Hill. "China’s foray into America’s sovereign airspace is deeply disturbing and calls for an immediate investigation."
The balloon entered American territory via the Aleutian Islands chain in Alaska and made its way to Montana by way of Canada. As of Friday afternoon, it was in the vicinity of Nebraska and Kansas, according to Kansas GOP Sen. Roger Marshall.
Defense officials opted against shooting down the balloon over concerns the falling debris may cause harm or damage when reaching the ground. The Pentagon has declined to provide real-time updates into the balloon's exact location, but indicated that "the public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky and see where the balloon is."
Numerous lawmakers and public figures have called on the administration to shoot down the balloon, with many questioning the rationale behind not doing so.
"This is a matter of homeland security, and we should hear from senior members of the Biden administration to understand their response, or lack thereof, so far," Hawley wrote.
The balloon previously travelled near intercontinental ballistic missile silos in Montana has raised many concerns among policy makers, despite Chinese claims that the balloon is merely a civilian aircraft that went off course.
Hawley addressed the claims from Beijing, saying "[w]e know that is a lie."
"The Pentagon has confirmed that the balloon is 'maneuverable' and is currently somewhere over the center of the continental United States — in violation of U.S. airspace and international law," he asserted.
The balloon's arrival comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing over myriad issues, including the alleged use of Chinese telecommunications firms for espionage purposes and geopolitical tensions over communist claims to Taiwan.