China protests US sanctioning 6 companies over balloon
The Chinese Foreign Ministry voiced its disapproval of the United States sanctioning six companies.
The United States is exaggerating the Chinese balloon incident and using it as an excuse to impose illegal sanctions on Chinese enterprises, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Monday.
Wenbin stressed that Beijing condemned Washington's actions, pledging to take all necessary measures to protect the rights and interests of the affected firms.
The US Commerce Department on Friday blacklisted six Chinese companies that it claimed had facilitated the development of China's aerospace industry, including the manufacturing of balloons.
A US fighter jet successfully brought down the alleged Chinese "surveillance" balloon in US territorial waters off the coast of South Carolina, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on February 4th.
The balloon was located over the North American Aerospace Defense Command on January 28 over Alaska, before it was found floating over missile sites in Montana. Days later, after tracking, the US decided to shoot it down over the South Carolina coast.
"This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, US fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People's Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in US airspace," Austin said in a statement.
In light of the accidental entry of a Chinese unmanned airship into US airspace earlier in February, Beijing's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said via a spokesperson that China regretted the unintended breach of US airspace.
The Financial Times reported that US State Secretary Antony Blinken canceled his trip to Beijing over the incident, hours before he was supposed to depart for China.
"China has repeatedly explained the situation to the United States, but Washington abuses force, overreacts and escalates the situation, which violates the spirit of international law and international practice," Wang told the press at a regular briefing.
"Now it is also inflating and exaggerating [the balloon case] to the extreme and using it as an excuse to impose illegal sanctions against Chinese enterprises and institutions. In this regard, China expresses strong discontent and strongly opposes [these actions], the PRC [People's Republic of China] will take necessary measures to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and institutions," the spokesperson added.
Beijing has always strongly opposed "the illegal unilateral sanctions" and extraterritorial jurisdiction that the United States is using against Chinese institutions, businesses, and individuals, he stressed.
Even though Washington imposed sanctions on Chinese companies over the balloon incident, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday that his country was intent on not only keeping the debris of the Chinese balloon but also "exploit what we recover and learn even more than we have learned."
"Our efforts to surveil this balloon and what we're going to learn from the recovery will prove to be valuable," he said.
Read next: Previous Chinese 'spy' balloons went undetected while in US airspace
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said last week that "China... never violated the territory and airspace of any sovereign country," adding that "some politicians and media in the United States used the (balloon) incident as a pretext to attack and smear China."
Beijing Nanjiang Aerospace Technology, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation 48th Research Institute, Dongguan Lingkong Remote Sensing Technology, Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group, Guangzhou Tian-Hai-Xiang Aviation Technology, and Shanxi Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group are all Chinese companies that the United States sanctioned because their activities were considered "dangerous" to the US interests of national security or foreign policy.
Moreover, in light of the US sanctions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said earlier on Monday that high-altitude balloons originating from the US have flown over Chinese airspace more than 10 times since January last year.
At a media briefing in Beijing, Wang assured that his country's response to these events was both professionally and responsibly handled.