Chinese MoFA blasts US force against the 'unmanned civilian airship'
The Chinese Foreign Ministry expresses dissatisfaction with the US response to the airship after it "repeatedly informed the US side of the civilian nature of the airship."
In a statement issued Sunday morning, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs blasted the US's downing of the Chinese balloon, saying the downing of the "civilian" aircraft was "clearly overreacting and seriously violating international practice."
A senior US defense official told reporters that Saturday afternoon was the military's first chance to deflate the balloon while still allowing authorities to collect the fallen debris from US territorial waters.
However, following Saturday's operation, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed "strong dissatisfaction and protests against the United States' use of force to attack the unmanned civilian airship."
"The Chinese side has, after verification, repeatedly informed the US side of the civilian nature of the airship and conveyed that its entry into the US due to force majeure was totally unexpected. "
The ministry said in its statement that instead of responding in a "restrained" manner, "the United States insisted on using force, clearly overreacting."
"China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant enterprises and reserve the right to make further necessary responses," the statement added.
After several attempts, a US fighter jet brought down the Chinese balloon in US territorial waters off the coast of South Carolina, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday.
"This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. 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.
The balloon had been used by China in efforts to "surveil strategic sites" in the US, according to the Defense Secretary.
⚡️What appears to be a proximity triggered missile was fired from an F-22 raptor in order to shoot down the Chinese Balloon. pic.twitter.com/7blNYjPkIK— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) February 4, 2023
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden gave his authorization to neutralize the balloon as soon as the operation could be carried out "without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path," according to the statement.
CNN had reported earlier on Saturday that the Chinese balloon detected over the United States, which Beijing is saying is to serve civilian purposes related to meteorology, might have left the East Coast later on in the day.
According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather model, the high-altitude balloon could exit the United States East Coast "as early as Saturday morning."
This came ahead of a scheduled visit to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken intended to ease the tensions between the two countries.
The Financial Times reported that Blinken canceled his trip to Beijing over the incident, hours before he was supposed to depart for China.
Later on, the Pentagon said the Chinese research balloon that accidentally breached US airspace on Thursday poses no threat to people on the ground.