WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- China called the U.S. military’s downing of the suspected spy balloon an “overreaction.”
- Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning insisted that the “unmanned airship” accidentally veered off into U.S. airspace.
- She said that China will “resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights and interests” over the balloon, since it “does not belong to the U.S.”
The downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon has negatively affected Chinese-U.S. relations, with China stating on Tuesday that it will “resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights and interests.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also canceled a visit to Beijing previously scheduled this week.
China insisted that it was a civilian balloon conducting meteorological research but refused to say which company or government department it belonged to.
On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning repeated that the “unmanned airship” accidentally veered into U.S. airspace and posed no threat. She argued that the U.S. should have adopted a “calm, professional” response instead of “overreacting” and shooting it down.
Without answering whether China wanted to have the debris returned, Mao asserted that the balloon “belongs to China.”
“The balloon does not belong to the U.S.,” Mao stated. “The Chinese government will continue to resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights and interests.”
China’s latest statements were firmer than their initial response on Friday, when they expressed “regret” for the balloon’s “accidental” entry into the U.S.
China added that it has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, over accusations that the U.S. “obviously overreacted and seriously violated the spirit of international law and international practice.”
Tensions between the U.S. and China have increased during the past year, especially since China has largely sided with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Other balloons confirmed or suspected to be Chinese have been spotted over other countries such as Japan and Costa Rica.
Taiwan also reported sightings of mysterious white balloons at least three times in the past two years. China has claimed Taiwan as its own territory and has threatened to bring it under control by force if necessary.
The Chinese balloon spotted over the U.S. has drawn intense speculation over its purposes. Due to its size and attached equipment, most officials and security experts dismissed China’s claims that it was a weather balloon. The balloon was 200 feet (60 meters) tall and had a payload of over a couple thousand pounds.