Former US President Donald Trump and a number of his top national security and defense officials on Sunday refuted Biden administration officials' claims that Chinese surveillance balloons briefly transited the continental United States during the Trump administration, Fox News reported.
A defense official on Saturday said Chinese spy balloons briefly traveled over the United States at least three times during the last administration.
"This never happened. It would have never happened," Trump told Fox News Digital on Sunday morning, adding that Beijing "respected us greatly" under his leadership.
"It never happened with us under the Trump administration, and if it did, we would have shot it down immediately," Trump continued. "It's disinformation."
Trump also said the Biden administration is spreading this because "they look so bad, as usual."
"They are incompetent," he said.
John Bolton, former Trump White House national security adviser, told Fox News Digital that he never heard of anything like this under his tenure.
"I don’t know of any balloon flights by any power over the United States during my tenure, and I’d never heard of any of that occurring before I joined in 2018," Bolton said. "I haven’t heard of anything that occurred after I left either."
Bolton said that if the Biden administration has "specific examples, they need to tell Congress."
He added, "I can say with 100% certainty, not during my tenure."
Robert O’Brien, who served as White House national security adviser from 2019 to 2021, told Fox News Digital that he had no knowledge of anything like this occurring.
The US on Saturday downed the suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of the Carolinas.
Live TV news captured the moment the balloon was downed. In the live footage, a small explosion can be seen, after which the balloon slowly falls toward the water.
China later said it is “strongly discontented” with the US downing of its surveillance balloon, adding it reserves the right for any necessary reaction to the incident.
The use of force against the balloon, which China said is for civilian use and entered the US accidentally, was an “obvious overreaction” and violated international standard practices, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement quoted by Bloomberg.
The decision to down the balloon came a day after the Pentagon ruled out doing so, saying that "any potential debris field would be significant" and could cause "civilian injuries or deaths or significant property damage”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday postponed his visit to China in the wake of the discovery of the surveillance balloon.
Speaking to reporters after the postponement, Blinken said China’s action was “a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law...an irresponsible act."