The curious case of Chinese balloons and American F-22s
Washington/Beijing: It is a curious case of mysterious Chinese balloons and American F-22s. China today conceded that a balloon spotted over Latin America was from China but rebutted the US claim that it was a “surveillance” balloon.
Earlier, Beijing had strongly protested the Pentagon shooting down another ‘spy’ Chinese balloon, off the US Atlantic coast on February 4, 2023, with a missile fired from an F-22 plane, ending a three-day spectacle. Just a day earlier, on February 3, the Pentagon had said that the balloon was over Montana which houses US nuclear missile sites. Soon thereafter, China dismissed the head of its weather department but has remained tight-lipped over whether the dismissal was related to the balloon.
Significantly, much politics is being played over the Chinese balloons in Washington where Republicans criticized the Biden administration for not shooting the balloon down earlier after it was first noticed over Alaska on January 28, 2023. The US military had tracked the balloon’s flightpath above the Aleutian Islands and Alaska on January 28, then through Canada on January 30, and then into the US over Idaho on January 31, officials said.
China today parried the allegations made by New York’s Senator and the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that once the balloon was exposed to the public, China attempted to manoeuvre the balloon to leave the US as soon as possible. “I can tell you that we have maintained communication with the US side and made a great effort to handle this matter in a responsible way,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.
While the US insisted that what it shot down was a spy balloon, China today shot back claiming “the US side’s deliberate hyping up of the matter and even use of force are unacceptable and irresponsible…As a responsible country, China strictly adheres to international law and respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries. As history shows, it is the US that has repeatedly trampled on international law and violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries.”
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng today lodged “stern representations” to the US Embassy in Beijing over the handling of the Chinese balloon.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stressed that despite repeated communication with the US, the US side still went ahead with the use of force. “I want to stress that the US made an overreaction by using force on a strayed unmanned civilian airship. This violates customary international practice…This is a clear overreaction. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to that. The US side needs to stop pushing the envelope and stop escalating or exacerbating the situation. The Chinese side will respond as necessary in light of the development of the situation,” she told reporters in Beijing today.
She said the Chinese side had already “made it clear that this was entirely an unexpected, isolated incident caused by force majeure”, and that China had provided “relevant information to the US side on multiple occasions”. She clarified that after the US side informed the Chinese side of the situation, “we immediately verified it and communicated it to the US side, and we specifically asked the US side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner”. She asserted that China made the result of its verification available to the US side “in a timely way”.
Following the balloon incident, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken said he will postpone his trip to China, to which China responded claiming neither China nor the US had ever announced that there would be a visit.
About the second balloon, Beijing today stressed that the balloon, an unmanned airship, was of civilian nature and used for flight tests, meteorological and other research purposes and got deviated far from its planned course and entered into the airspace of Latin America and the Caribbean because of the impact of the weather and limited self-steering capability.
“Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. This is entirely an unexpected, isolated incident caused by force majeure,” she claimed. She added that China had informed the “relevant sides” and the issue was being properly handled and would not pose any threat to any country. “They have expressed their understanding,” Ning asserted.
To a pointed question as to why is China having so much trouble controlling weather balloons, Ning replied: “I’m not an expert on controlling the balloon, so I’m probably not the right person to answer this question. But to my knowledge, this is not the first time in the world that balloons for scientific research went out of control.”
Ning also refuted the Pentagon’s claim that there were three instances of China flying “surveillance” balloons over the United States during the Donald Trump administration. “I noted that Mr Trump has denied the claim,” she said. However, on February 6, 2023, a senior administration official told CNN that the transiting of three suspected Chinese spy balloons over the continental US during the Trump administration was only discovered after President Joe Biden took office.
– global bihari bureau