(TibetanReview.net, Feb05’23) – The US military has finally shot down on Feb 4 a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it had traversed sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft, expressed outrage, and vowed repercussions, plunging relations between the two countries to a new low just when Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set for a visit to explore possibilities for normalizing bilateral relations.
The balloon had been sailing across the US airspace for seven days with not a word from China until it was detected and reported on, when it claimed that the flyover was an accident.
The presence of the balloon in the skies above the US has dealt a severe blow to already strained US-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions, noted the AP Feb 4.
President Joe Biden was stated to have issued the order to shoot down the balloon even earlier, on Feb 1, but was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, US officials have said. Military officials were stated to have determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.
The debris was stated to have landed in 47 feet of water, spread out over roughly seven miles, with the recovery operation including several ships headed towards the area to salvage them. Officials have estimated that the recovery efforts would be completed in a short time, not weeks.
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China expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition towards the use of force to attack its civilian unmanned airship, reported the official Xinhua news agency Feb 5, citing a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.
The statement has claimed that the balloon’s “entry into the United States due to force majeure was totally unexpected”, and spoken of having “clearly asked the US side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner.”
The civilian airship is used for research, mainly meteorological purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson was cited as having said earlier Feb 3.
Under such circumstances, the US use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice. China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the company concerned, and reserve the right to make further responses if necessary, the statement was cited a saying.
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China has also criticized as well as played down Mr Blinken’s decision to postpone his visit. The fact that Mr Blinken’s decision is based on some media outlets’ hyping up of the issue makes one doubt the US government’s sincerity in putting bilateral relations back on a healthy track, said the official chinadaily.com.cn Feb 4.
China also claimed, however, that the visit was yet to be finalized. Its foreign ministry suggested that neither China nor the US had announced that there would be a visit by US Secretary of State following news that Blinken had postponed his planned visit to China citing the balloon incident as an excuse, reported the official globaltimes.cn Feb 4.
“In actuality, the US and China have never announced any visit, the US making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” the AP Feb 4, likewise, quoted China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying in its Feb 4 morning statement.