Chinese balloon shot down: Beijing blasts US decision, "we protest the use of force by the United States
Sylvie Claire / February 6, 2023
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs blasted the U.S. decision on Sunday to shoot down the Chinese balloon that had been flying over the United States for several days.
Beijing expressed its "strong displeasure" on Sunday after the United States shot down the Chinese balloon that had been flying over its soil for several days, and said it "reserves the right" to retaliate. The operation conducted Saturday by an F-22 fighter jet took place "over the water off the coast of South Carolina, in U.S. airspace," said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement. He stressed that it was carried out in response to an "unacceptable violation" of American "sovereignty ».
China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and protests against the use of force by the United States," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it "reserves the right" to retaliate. Washington "clearly overreacted" and "seriously violated international practices," the same source said. The Pentagon asserts that it was a spy balloon. The balloon "was used by the People's Republic of China in an attempt to monitor strategic sites" in the United States, Austin said.
Joe Biden congratulated the pilots who carried out "successfully" this delicate operation. He said he gave the order on Wednesday to shoot down the balloon "as soon as possible", but that the Pentagon wanted to wait for "the safest place to do it" to avoid any damage to the ground during the fall of any debris. This decision was also welcomed by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Together (...) we will continue to protect and defend ourselves," he said in a tweet Saturday.
Recovery operations, which could involve divers, were now underway. The debris is in shallow water, "so that will make things fairly easy," a senior military official said. In videos broadcast by television stations Saturday, the balloon appeared to fall vertically after an impact. At the time it was shot down, the balloon was about 18 kilometers above sea level and 11 kilometers from the coast, according to Pentagon officials.
Shortly before, air traffic had been suspended at three airports in the southeastern United States as a "national security" measure, the U.S. civil aviation regulator (FAA) had announced. These were one airport in North Carolina and two in South Carolina. The traffic resumed shortly after the end of the operation. This case has cast a pall over relations between Washington and Beijing, causing the postponement of a visit to China by the head of U.S. diplomacy Antony Blinken. The visit would have been the first by a U.S. secretary of state since October 2018.