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China Strongly Opposes US Move to Shoot Down Balloon, Issues Threat

China Strongly Opposes US Move to Shoot Down Balloon, Issues Threat

Sunday, 5 February, 2023 - 06:15
A US military fighter jet shot down the airship

China's foreign ministry said on Sunday that it expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition towards the United States' use of force to attack its airship.

A US military fighter jet shot down the airship, which Washington has described as a suspected Chinese spy balloon, off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, a week after it entered US airspace and triggered a dramatic -- and public – spying saga that worsened Sino-US relations.

President Joe Biden issued the order but had wanted the balloon downed even earlier, on Wednesday. He was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, US officials said. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.

In its statement Sunday, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “China will resolutely uphold the relevant company’s legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response.”

The giant white orb was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the Atlantic coast. About 2:39 p.m. EST, an F-22 fighter jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, senior defense officials said.

China has claimed that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that had been blown off course. The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that it was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational ability.

The presence of the balloon in the skies above the US this week dealt a severe blow to already strained US-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions.

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