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Chinese spy balloon: Sen. Lisa Murkowski raises questions about U.S. response

Lisa Murkowski Screen Grab-02.09.22.png
U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations
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Sen. Lisa Murkowski expresses anger over the Biden administration's handling of a Chinese spy balloon, which entered U.S. territory north of the Aleutian Islands.

At a U.S. Senate committee hearing on the Chinese spy balloon on Thursday, Senator Lisa Murkowski lashed out at the Biden administration.

“As an Alaskan, I am so angry, I want to use other words, but I'm not going to,” said Murkowski, who asked representatives from the Defense Department why the administration waited so long to respond to the threat. She questioned why the Biden administration did not take action during the two days the surveillance balloon first entered U.S. waters north of the Aleutian Islands on January 28th and then crossed into Canada.

“It's like this administration doesn't think that Alaska is any part of the rest of the country here,” she said. “To get to the United States, you've got to come through Alaska.”

Murkowski listed a number of Alaska military installations at the hearing, key to the nation’s defense, and then asked why the state wasn’t the first line of defense.

At what point do we say, a surveillance balloon, a spy balloon coming from China, is a threat to our sovereignty?,” said Murkowski. “It should be the minute, the minute, it crosses the line, and that line is Alaska.”

Murkowski said the Biden Administration has sent a troubling signal to China that they have free range over Alaska.

Melissa Dalton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs, told the senate panel there were a number of reasons why the balloon wasn’t shot down over Alaskan waters.

“If we had taken it down, over the state of Alaska, which is part of the United States, it would have been a very different recovery operation,” Dalton said.

Dalton told the senate panel it would have been a much more dangerous recovery operation, than the one conducted off the coast of South Carolina, eight days later.

“The water depths offshore (of) the Aleutians, at six-plus nautical miles, go very quickly from150 feet to over 18,000 feet,” she said.

Defense department officials said they would reveal more information about the handling of the spy balloon in a separate, closed briefing.

Rhonda McBride has a long history of working in both television and radio in Alaska, going back to 1988, when she was news director at KYUK, the public radio and TV stations in Bethel, which broadcast in both the English and Yup’ik languages.