(TibetanReview.net, Feb16’23) – As if to make a point of using the opportunity to reaffirm its sovereignty over the occupied territories of Tibet and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) amid a raging spy-balloon dispute, China claimed Feb 15 that the Unites States too had flown balloons over its territory, including over these two disputed regions.
“A large number” of high-altitude balloons had been released from the United States for “continuous global navigation,” the scmp.com Feb 15 cited Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin as saying.
The balloons had flown over Chinese airspace without China’s permission more than 10 times since May, with some going above the regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, the report cited Wang as saying Feb 15.
He has warned that China would retaliate against the US decision to shoot down a Chinese balloon and to add six Chinese entities to an export blacklist over alleged links to Beijing’s suspected “spy balloon” programme.
“China is strongly opposed to this and will take countermeasures against relevant US entities that have undermined our sovereignty and security to firmly safeguard our sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests,” Wang has said.
Wang has not cited any evidence, nor referred to any specific incident for his allegations.
Four airborne objects have been shot down over North America in the past fortnight. Washington identified the first one, which it shot down on Feb 4, as a surveillance balloon while China insisted it was a weather balloon that had accidentally strayed into US airspace.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a trip to China as a result of the first incident. China has accused the US of “seriously undermining” efforts since last year’s G20 summit to stabilize ties between the two countries.
“What the US has done [in shooting down the balloon] has seriously impacted and damaged the efforts and process of stabilizing Sino-US relations since the Bali meeting,” Wang has said, referring to a summit in November between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Lu Xiang, a specialist on US-China relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has said the balloon saga was initially an “accident”, but turned into a “major incident” because of US “hype” and its decision to shoot the airship down.
He has said relations between the two countries were unstable to an extent “that even the will of the top leaders of both sides is difficult to be implemented”.
However, a meeting between China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, and Blinken might ease the tensions, he has suggested.
Blinken is considering meeting Wang at the Munich Security Conference which starts on Feb 17, with one source saying it was possible but that nothing had been confirmed, the report said.