China protests after US planes shoot down suspected spy balloon

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China says it “reserves the right” to face “similar situations” following the US decision to shoot down its balloon at high altitude.

“The United States used force to attack our unmanned civilian airship, which is a clear overreaction. We express solemn protest against this decision by the United States,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said in a statement Sunday afternoon local time.

China “reserves the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations,” he added.

Earlier on Sunday, China’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States of “overreacting” and “seriously violating international practices”, after US military fighter jets shot down the balloon over China on Saturday. the Atlantic Ocean on a mission that President Joe Biden hailed as a success.

The United States believes the balloon was involved in espionage, but China has denied that claim, insisting it was a derailed civilian research vessel.

“The Chinese side has repeatedly informed the US side after verification that the airship is for civilian use and entered the United States due to force majeure – it was completely an accident,” the statement said. from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Force Majeure” is a legal term meaning “force majeure”. It exempts a party from liability if an unforeseen event, such as a natural disaster, prevents it from performing its obligations under the contract.

“China has clearly asked the United States to handle it properly in a calm, professional and sober manner. A U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson also said the balloon will not pose a military or personal threat to ground personnel,” the department statement continued.

“China will resolutely protect the legitimate rights and interests of relevant companies, while reserving the right to make further necessary reactions,” the foreign ministry added.

Chinese state media reported on Saturday that the head of the country’s meteorological service had been relieved of his duties, in a move seen by some analysts as an attempt to bolster Beijing’s position that the high-altitude balloon was likely primarily for meteorological purposes.

Zhuang Guotai was head of the China Meteorological Administration until Friday, but his departure from that post was not unexpected. In late January, Zhuang was elected head of the People’s Political Advisory Committee of Western Gansu Province, the provincial political advisory body.

US officials have pushed back against repeated claims by China that the downed balloon was merely for civilian use and entered US airspace by “accident”.

“It was a surveillance balloon from the PRC (People’s Republic of China). This surveillance balloon voluntarily passed through the United States and Canada and we are convinced that it was seeking to monitor sensitive military sites,” said a senior US government official.

The official said a second balloon, spotted over Central and South America, was “another PRC surveillance balloon” and had similar technical characteristics to the one that flew over the United States.

“Both balloons also carry monitoring equipment not typically associated with standard meteorological activities or civilian research,” the official said. “The collection pod equipment and the solar panels located on the metal beam suspended below the balloon are an important feature of both balloons.”

Earlier this week, Pentagon officials said the balloon posed no “military or physical” threat. The United States decided not to shoot down the balloon while it remained over land due to the risk of falling debris injuring a civilian and instead waited until it was over the ocean.

The US military will now focus on debris recovery efforts.

The incident is the latest in a series of espionage cases and has fueled a diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Washington.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese authorities said on Sunday that the Chinese balloon incident “should not be tolerated by the civilized international community”.

The self-governing island, which China claims as part of its territory although it never controlled it, has experience of similar balloons flying over its territory.

“Such actions by the Chinese Communist Party government violate international law, violate other countries’ airspace and violate their sovereignty,” Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, calling on the Chinese government to “immediately cease any such conduct that impinges on other countries”. countries and causes regional instability.

Balloons meant to be used for “weather observations” flew over the island in September 2021 and February 2022, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.

But it is still unclear whether these balloons were the same type as the one shot down by US fighter jets on Saturday.


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