China Accuses U.S. of ‘Overreaction’ in Shooting Down Suspected Spy Balloon

The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed the U.S. decision to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday was an “overreaction.”

The U.S. military downed the surveillance balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday, days after it was seen hovering over sensitive military facilities in Montana.

“China strongly disapproves of and protests against the U.S. attack on a civilian unmanned airship by force,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, according to the South China Morning Post.

“The U.S.’s use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice,” the statement added, warning that Beijing has the right to make “further responses that are necessary.”

Chinese officials confirmed Friday that the balloon is indeed theirs, but claimed it’s a civilian airship used for weather research.

“The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.”

However, Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, disputed China’s claims on Friday saying, “We know that it’s a surveillance balloon,” but added that he would be unable to share more information than that.

“We do know that the balloon has violated U.S. airspace and international law which is unacceptable so we’ve conveyed this directly to the [People’s Republic of China] at multiple levels,” he said.

The Pentagon first became aware of the balloon on January 28, when it entered U.S. airspace in Alaska. The Biden administration kept the discovery under wraps so as not to jeopardize Secretary of State Blinken’s planned trip to Beijing, Bloomberg reported. Blinken postponed the trip on Friday just hours before he was set to depart. Blinken and President Biden decided it was best to postpone the trip in light of the unfolding situation with the balloon, officials told the Associated Press.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed Saturday that politicians and the media have “hyped” up the situation in an effort to “attack and smear China.”

While several Republican lawmakers called on the U.S. to shoot down the balloon earlier this week, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Ryan Zinke of Montana, the military waited to take down the balloon until it was over water off the coast of South Carolina due to concerns from the Pentagon that the action could cause civilian casualties if carried out elsewhere on the balloon’s flight path.

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