- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2023

The Defense Department says previous Chinese spy balloons have been spotted close to U.S. airspace, including near Texas, Florida, Hawaii and Guam.

Some of the sightings occurred during the Trump administration, U.S. officials told members of Congress — something former President Donald Trump furiously rejected as untrue.

Rep. Michael Waltz, Florida Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Washington Post that defense officials disclosed the continental incursions during a briefing Saturday. The encroachments on Hawaii and Guam were previously known.

It was not clear where, exactly, the balloons were spotted over Texas and Florida, or if they made it to U.S. airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from shore.

President Biden is facing GOP heat over how he handled the latest balloon, which flew from Montana across the continental U.S. to the Carolinas. It was shot down off the Atlantic Coast to ensure debris did not fall on anyone or anything on land.

“The president called for this to be dealt with in a way that balanced all of the different risks,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That’s exactly what happened.”

SEE ALSO: China: U.S. violated ‘international practice’ in shooting down spy balloon

Senior Biden administration officials said they found out about the Trump-era incursions after he left office, though former Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said he did not recall any balloon incidents, so it is unclear how they were handled, according to The Post.

Mr. Trump denied the reports, saying the Biden team was trying to deflect criticism.

“Now they are putting out that a Balloon was put up by China during the Trump Administration, in order to take the “heat” off the slow moving Biden fools,” Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social. “China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for this to have happened, and it NEVER did.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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