The US shot down a suspected Chinese “spy balloon”. There are initial reactions from Beijing.
A fighter jet shot down the alleged “spy balloon” from China that had entered US airspace over the Atlantic. “Today’s considered and lawful actions demonstrate that President Biden and his national security team always put the safety of the American people first while responding effectively to the unacceptable violation of our sovereignty by the People’s Republic of China,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday Saturday.
Biden gave the go-ahead Wednesday to launch it as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to life, Austin said. After careful analysis, it was concluded that launching the balloon over land would be too dangerous due to its size, height and load.
It was therefore decided to shoot down the balloon safely over US territorial waters. The measure was carried out in cooperation with Canada. US President Joe Biden congratulated the military. The launch was “successful,” he said in Maryland.
Beijing: “We reserve the right to react”
China, meanwhile, protested the downing of the Chinese balloon used for espionage following US allegations. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Beijing expressed China’s “strong dissatisfaction” with the use of force by the United States against a “civilian unmanned airship”. We reserve the right to “necessary reactions”.
China has repeatedly informed the United States that the balloon is for civilian purposes and entered US airspace “by force majeure, which was completely accidental.” The Pentagon itself has said the balloon poses no threat to the military or people on the ground. US insistence on the use of force under these circumstances is an “obvious overreaction” and a violation of standard international practice.
The Chinese consul in Belfast, Zhang Meifang, tried to downplay the balloon affair. “Maybe China just gave the US a balloon. Like someone gives a child a balloon to make them feel better,” she wrote on Twitter.
Another balloon apparently sighted over Costa Rica and Colombia
Amid the dispute between Washington and Beijing, Colombia has now informed about an object with “similar characteristics” in its airspace. On the morning of February 3, the national air defense system discovered an object at an altitude of around 17,000 meters that had entered the airspace in the northern sector of the country, the Colombian Air Force said on Saturday (local time). The object moved at an average speed of 25 knots and showed “properties similar to a balloon”.
Costa Rica confirmed Saturday night that there had been sightings of a large white observation balloon flying over the capital, San Jose, earlier this week. The balloon was similar in appearance to the Chinese balloon shot down by the United States. Costa Rica Director General of Civil Aviation Fernando Naranjo Elizondo told CNN the airship spotted Thursday over San Jose was “not a balloon that originated in Costa Rica.”
EPP chief calls for containment of Chinese influence
After these sightings, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, called on the western allies to work together to curb Chinese influence. “The new obvious espionage actions by China against the USA give cause for concern,” Weber told the newspapers of the Funke media group (Sunday). It is obvious that Beijing’s behavior towards Western countries is becoming significantly more aggressive.
Taiwan said early Sunday morning that the Chinese balloon incident “should not be tolerated by the civilized international community.” “Such actions by the Chinese Communist Party government violate international law, violate other countries’ airspace and violate their sovereignty,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.