| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

China lodges protest with US over shooting down of ‘civilian’ balloon

China has urged Washington not to take any actions over the shooting down of its balloon, that could escalate and complicate the situation.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington stated on Tuesday that its Charge d’Affaires Xu Xueyuan made stern representations to senior officials of the US Department of State and the White House National Security Council regarding the “US attack on a Chinese unmanned civilian airship by force.”

On Saturday, the US shot down the suspected Chinese “spy” balloon that had been spotted above US airspace off the coast of South Carolina, and US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby later said there was “no intention to send the pieces back.”

Since then, China has accused Washington of “damaging” progress made in bilateral relations by using “indiscriminate force” to shoot down the alleged spy balloon.

“Xu pointed out that the unintended entry of the airship is an entirely unexpected, isolated incident caused by force majeure,” the embassy said in a statement posted on its website.

Xu said they informed US authorities multiple times after verification and asked them to handle it in a calm, professional, and restrained manner.

“The Chinese side expresses firm opposition to and strong protest against the US side using force to attack it. We urge the US side not to take any actions that may escalate and complicate the situation. The Chinese side reserves the right to make further responses if necessary,” the diplomat warned.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said “the balloon does not belong to the US, it belongs to China,”

“The US side should have properly handled the accident in a calm, professional manner, but the US insisting on the use of force is obviously an overreaction,” Mao said, according to the Chinese daily Global Times, insisting the balloon was for civilian use.

She added Chinese government will “firmly safeguard its legitimate rights.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his US counterpart Joe Biden in Bali, Indonesia last November where the two sides had agreed to maintain high-level communication.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to travel to Beijing this weekend but postponed it due to the balloon incident.

Beijing, however, has insisted that the “civilian” airship made an unintended entry into the US airspace due to force majeure.

After the balloon was located by Washington, Beijing said it had conveyed to the US that it was a “civilian airship.”​​​​​​​

  • Anadolu Agency