China: US use of force to down balloon a ‘clear overreaction’

In this photo provided by Chad Fish, a large balloon drifts above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, with a fighter jet and its contrail seen below it, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (Chad Fish via AP)

China has accused the United States of a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice in the downing of a Chinese balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday – which the US accused of being a spy balloon.

In a statement Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the balloon had been an unmanned civilian airship, and that the flyover had been an accident.

“China strongly disapproves of and protests against the US attack on a civilian unmanned airship by force,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“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.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the Chinese side had clearly asked the US side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner.

They also said that the spokesperson of the US Department of Defense also stated that the balloon did not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.

“Under such circumstances, the US use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Chinese Foreign Ministry said the country would resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the company concerned, and reserved the right to make further responses if necessary.

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