China accuses US of indiscriminate use of force for shooting down surveillance balloon that invaded US airspace for days

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 – The Chinese government on Monday February 6, accused the United States of indiscriminate use of force when the American military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday, saying that had ‘seriously impacted and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress in stabilizing Chinese-U.S. relations.’

The U.S. shot down a balloon off the Carolina coast after it crossed sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft and was not for civilian purposes but US denied the assertion saying the balloon was maneuverable with propellers.

The Chinese 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, which 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.

Xie repeated China’s insistence that the balloon was a Chinese civil unmanned airship that blew into U.S. mistake, calling it ‘an accidental incident caused by force majeure.’

China would ‘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,’ he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued the shootdown order after he was advised that the best times for the operation would be when it was over water, U.S. officials said. Military officials determined that bringing down the balloon over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,000 meters) would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.

‘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 the recent meeting between Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Indonesia that many hoped would create positive momentum for improving ties that have spiraled to their lowest level in years.

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.

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