China labels US accusations about balloon ‘information warfare’

In this photo provided by Chad Fish, the remnants of a large balloon drift above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, with a fighter jet and its contrail seen below it, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. The downing of the suspected Chinese spy balloon by a missile from an F-22 fighter jet created a spectacle over one of the state’s tourism hubs and drew crowds reacting with a mixture of bewildered gazing, distress and cheering. (Chad Fish via AP)

The Chinese government says the U.S. accusations that its recently downed balloon was intended to conduct surveillance on the United States is “information warfare.” 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning reiterated Beijing’s claims that the object was a weather balloon that wind blew off course and China it did not intend to violate any country’s sovereignty. 

She said the U.S.’s rejection of China’s explanation and conclusion that the balloon was intended for surveillance is “irresponsible” and “may be part of the U.S. side’s information warfare against China.” 

Mao’s comments came before the Biden administration said on Thursday that it believes China’s military is responsible for a wide-ranging surveillance program that has spanned five continents and targeted more than 40 countries. 

A top Pentagon spokesperson previously confirmed that the balloon that traveled across the U.S. last week before it was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean was part of a larger spy program that the Chinese government runs. 

The administration said the Chinese military is using balloons similar to the one that was seen over the U.S. to collect communications signals and other sensitive information using high-tech equipment. 

Tensions between the U.S. and China have heightened over the past week since the administration announced its discovery of the balloon. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a scheduled visit to China that was supposed to happen this week, and China’s defense minister refused a phone call from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday. 

A U.S. official said the debris that was recovered after the balloon was shot down was not consistent with China’s claims that the balloon was meant to conduct meteorological research. They said the U.S. is also contacting other countries that China has targeted to inform them of China’s activities. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags Chinese Foreign Ministry Chinese spy balloon Chinese surveillance balloon Mao Ning U.S.-China relations

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