Downed spy balloon increases diplomatic tensions between US and China

China’s spy balloon may be down, but diplomatic temperatures continued to rise on Sunday as officials in Beijing blasted the US decision to launch it from the sky.

Describing it as “an obvious overreaction”, Tan Kefei, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, said in a statement on Sunday that his country reserves “the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations. “. In an equally strong statement, China’s foreign ministry said it was “a serious violation of international customary practice.”

Both statements described the balloon as a “civilian unmanned airship”, and China had previously said the orb was used for research and “meteorological purposes”.

The statements came after a US F-22 raptor shot down what the Pentagon called a “high-altitude surveillance balloon” with a single missile off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday afternoon. The US military will now focus on recovering parts of the craft from a debris field that stretches about 7 nautical miles.

First spotted over Montana, home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, the site of one of three US nuclear missile silo fields, the massive white orb, which is roughly the size of three school buses, headed southeast over Kansas and Missouri at about 60,000 to 65,000 feet.

Shortly after the strike, President Joe Biden told reporters he had given the order to shoot it after being told Wednesday, but the Pentagon “decided the best time to do so was when it passed over the water”.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Bali, Indonesia in July.Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AFP – Getty Images File

While he described Chinese suggestions for further action as “ominous,” David Sacks, a US-China diplomacy researcher at the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said he doubted that This has greatly changed relations between the two countries.

“They will issue a statement with a bit of bluster, but I don’t think China will try to respond in any way,” he said, adding that the escalation of the problem with the United States will not would be of little benefit to China. .

Beijing would not have wanted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone his visit to China, which was due to begin on Monday, Sacks said.

Blinken said on Friday that he told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the ball over the United States was “an irresponsible act” that was “prejudicial to the substantive discussions that we were ready to have”. His visit to China would have been the first by a US secretary of state since 2018.

While some on Chinese social media mocked the US decision to bring the ball down, others expressed anger. Some of the more hawkish media criticized the move, and the state-run Global Times newspaper called it a “clear overreaction”.

Several commentators also questioned the decision, while Jin Canrong, a China-US relations specialist at Renmin University of China in Beijing, questioned the decision to postpone Blinken’s visit.

In a post on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, he said there had been opposition to travel within the United States, particularly from Republican lawmakers.

“It must be said that Blinken’s visit to China in itself is not a bad thing, but the atmosphere is not good,” he said, adding that the United States always likes “to create small bargaining chip” before high-level meetings. between the two countries “to force the Chinese side to give in”.

“It doesn’t work. The Chinese side has long since stopped buying this,” he added.

Postponing the trip could prove problematic for the Biden administration “until China provides a more compelling and comprehensive explanation regarding these latest spying allegations,” Craig Singleton, senior China fellow at the Foundation for Defense for Democracies, a Washington, DC think tank and lobbying organization, said Saturday before the balloon was downed.

“Expectations were generally low that Blinken’s trip would result in diplomatic deliverables and, at this point, a meaningful reset between the two superpowers seems virtually off the table,” he said.


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