BEIJING: Beijing on Sunday blasted the Pentagon’s decision to shoot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon spotted flying over North America, accusing the United States of “clearly overreacting and seriously violating international practice”.
“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and protests against the use of force by the United States to attack the unmanned civilian airship,” Beijing’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that it would “reserve the right to make further necessary responses”.
The craft spent several days flying over North America, ratcheting up tensions between Washington and Beijing, before it was brought down by a missile shot from an F-22 jet on Saturday, Pentagon officials said.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called the operation a “deliberate and lawful action” that came in response to China’s “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”.
American officials first said on Thursday that they were tracking a large Chinese “surveillance balloon” in US skies. That led Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday to scrap a rare trip to Beijing designed to contain rising US-China tensions.
After initial hesitation, Beijing admitted ownership of the “airship”, but said it was a weather balloon that had been blown off course.
The Chinese foreign ministry on Sunday said it had “clearly requested that the United States properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner”.
Beijing said the United States “insisted on using force, clearly overreacting and seriously violating international practice”.
“China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant enterprises and reserve the right to make further necessary responses,” the ministry said in its statement.
President Joe Biden, who earlier Saturday had promised “to take care” of the balloon, congratulated the fighter pilots involved. “They successfully took it down. And I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” Biden told reporters in Maryland.
The balloon first entered US airspace over Alaska on Jan 28, Pentagon officials told reporters on Saturday, before drifting over Canada and then back into the US days later.
Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2023
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