China says it will safeguard ‘rights and interests’ after downing of balloon

China on Tuesday said it will “safeguard its legitimate rights and interests” in the aftermath of the United States shooting down the balloon suspected of conducting surveillance in the country.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that the “unmanned airship” did not pose any threat to the U.S. and entered the country’s airspace by accident. The Chinese government has admitted that it owned the balloon but said it was a weather balloon that was blown off course by wind, an assertion the U.S. has rejected. 

Mao said the U.S. overreacted in shooting down the balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday. 

“The balloon does not belong to the U.S. The Chinese government will continue to resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights and interests,” she said. 

Reuters reported that the U.S. Coast Guard placed a temporary security zone in the waters off South Carolina on Monday as the military conducted its search for the balloon debris. President Biden told reporters that the U.S. had “made clear” to China what it was going to do. 

The Chinese government said after the U.S. publicly acknowledged the balloon last week that it did not intend to violate the sovereignty of any country. But its response to shooting down the balloon has become stronger over the past few days. 

China said it placed a formal complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, accusing the U.S. of having “obviously overreacted and seriously violated the spirit of international law and international practice.” 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to China scheduled for this week after news of the balloon was publicized. 

The incident has raised tensions between the U.S. and China as the latter country has stepped up rhetoric and military drills near the self-governing island of Taiwan in recent months. China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, while the U.S. considers Taiwan’s status to be unresolved. 

The situation also comes as the war between Russia and Ukraine approaches the one-year mark, a conflict that the U.S. has worried will embolden China in its attitude to Taiwan. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags Biden Chinese balloon Chinese Foreign Ministry Chinese spy balloon U.S.-China relations

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