El Dorado News-Times
China accuses US of indiscriminate use of force over balloon
BEIJING (AP) — China on Monday accused the United States of indiscriminate use of force in shooting down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, saying it “seriously impacted and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress in stabilizing Sino-U.S. relations.”
The U.S. shot down the balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft.
Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said he lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. Embassy on Sunday over the “U.S. attack on a Chinese civilian unmanned airship by military force.”
“However, the United States turned a deaf ear and insisted on indiscriminate use of force against the civilian airship that was about to leave the United States airspace, obviously overreacted and seriously violated the spirit of international law and international practice,” Xie said.
The presence of the balloon in the skies above the U.S. dealt a severe blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions.
China will “resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, resolutely safeguard China’s interests and dignity and reserve the right to make further necessary responses,” Xe said.
“What the U.S. has done has seriously impacted and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress in stabilizing Sino-U.S. relations since the Bali meeting,” Xie said, referring to a recent meeting between Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Indonesia that many hoped would create positive momentum for improving ties that have plunged to their lowest level in years.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning provided no new details on Monday, repeating China’s insistence that the object was a civilian balloon intended for meteorological research, had little ability to steer and entered U.S. airspace by accidentally diverging from its course. She also did not say what additional steps China intended to take in response to Washington’s handling of the issue and cancellation of Blinken’s trip, which would have made him the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have stated that this is completely an isolated and accidental incident caused by force majeure, but the U.S. still hyped up the incident on purpose and even used force to attack,” Mao said at a daily briefing. “This is an unacceptable and irresponsible action.”
Balloons thought or known to be Chinese have been spotted from Latin America to Japan. Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told reporters Monday that a flying object similar to the one shot down by the U.S. had been spotted at least twice over northern Japan since 2020.
Washington and Beijing are at odds over a range of issues from trade to human rights, but China is most sensitive over alleged violations by the U.S. and others of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Beijing strongly protests U.S. military sales to Taiwan and visits by foreign politicians to the island, which it claims as Chinese territory, to be recovered by force if necessary.
China also objects when foreign military surveillance planes fly off its coast in international airspace and when U.S. and other foreign warships pass through the Taiwan Strait, accusing them of being actively provocative.
In 2001, a U.S. Navy plane conducting routine surveillance near the Chinese coast collided with a Chinese fighter plane, killing the Chinese fighter pilot and damaging the American plane, which was forced to make an emergency landing at a Chinese naval airbase on the southern Chinese island province of Hainan. China detained the 24-member U.S. Navy aircrew for 10 days until the U.S. expressed regret over the Chinese pilot’s death and for landing at the base without permission.
At a news conference Friday with his South Korean counterpart, Blinken said “the presence of this surveillance balloon over the United States in our skies is a clear violation of our sovereignty, a clear violation of international law, and clearly unacceptable. And we’ve made that clear to China.”
“Any country that has its airspace violated in this way I think would respond similarly, and I can only imagine what the reaction would be in China if they were on the other end,” Blinken said.
For the U.S. administration, the decision to go public and then shoot down the balloon marks a break from its usual approach of dealing with Beijing on such matters privately, possibly in hopes of changing China’s future behavior.