China accuses US of ‘indiscriminate use of force’ in downing of balloon

China is accusing the U.S. of an “indiscriminate use of force” after President Biden directed the military to shoot down a Chinese surveillance balloon spotted traveling for days through U.S. airspace and floating over sensitive military sites. 

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said he formally complained to the U.S. Embassy on Sunday over what he called a “U.S. attack on a Chinese civilian unmanned airship by military force.” China has insisted that the aircraft was a civilian weather balloon blown off course.

“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 U.S. shot down the balloon off the coast of the Carolinas on Saturday, after it spent days traversing the country at 60,000 feet, making its way from Alaska and Idaho in the northwest down toward the southeast

Pentagon officials evaluated that the balloon was “clearly crossing over sensitive sites” in its flightpath.

Biden waited to give the order until the aircraft was over water to avoid debris crashing down onto civilians over land. Pentagon officials said Sunday that the wreckage recovered and subsequently studied has been “of intelligence value” to learning “technical things about this balloon and its surveillance capabilities.”

China has said the balloon’s downing “seriously impacted and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress” in stabilizing U.S.-China relations as tensions between the two world powers rise. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off a planned trip to Beijing at the last minute amid concerns about the balloon. 

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that “this is completely an isolated and accidental accident … but the U.S. still hyped up the incident on purpose and even used force to attack,” calling the balloon’s downing an “unacceptable and irresponsible action.”

U.S. officials revealed over the weekend that the latest sighting isn’t the first time such aircraft have traversed the country’s airspace.

Chinese surveillance balloons were reportedly sighted at least three times during the Trump administration and once earlier in the Biden administration. Officials have indicated this is the first time any parts of a balloon have been recovered. 

Several other balloons have been spotted over other countries in the last few years, with recent sightings in Central and South America.

A U.S. defense official said Sunday that the aircraft are all part of a Chinese “fleet of balloons” that were “developed to conduct surveillance operations” on the U.S. and elsewhere.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags Antony Blinken balloon Biden Blinken China Chinese surveillance balloon pentagon surveillance balloon US

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