Clearly overreacting: China as US shoots down ‘spy’ balloon

After the US downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast, China said Washington is clearly overreacting and violating international practice.

Beijing,UPDATED: Feb 5, 2023 07:19 IST

The United States says it is a Chinese spy balloon moving east over America at an altitude of about 60,000 feet

The United States says it is a Chinese spy balloon moving east over America at an altitude of about 60,000 feet .

By Agence France-Presse: China 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”, threatening repercussions.

“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 United States on Saturday downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after President Joe Biden vowed to “take care” of the suspected spy device, AP reported. The balloon was shot down after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America and became the latest flashpoint in tensions between Washington and Beijing.

An operation was underway in US territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean to recover debris from the balloon, which had been flying at about 60,000 feet and was estimated to be about the size of three school buses.

“We successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” President Joe Biden was quoted by Reuters as saying.

READ | Blinken cancels China trip as spy balloon floats over US, Beijing calls it ‘civilian airship’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin first announced the shootdown, saying the balloon was being used by China “in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.”

Prior to the balloon being shot down, the FAA temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coastline, including the airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. The FAA rerouted air traffic from the area and warned of delays as a result of the flight restrictions.

Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the balloon descending toward the water. US military jets were seen flying in the vicinity and ships were deployed in the water to mount the recovery operation.

Officials were aiming to time the operation so they could recover as much of the debris as possible before it sinks into the ocean. The Pentagon had previously estimated that any debris field would be substantial.

READ | Chinese ‘spy’ balloon spotted over nuclear launch site, US says too risky to shoot down

The balloon was spotted over Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

The Pentagon also acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.

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