China Reacts to Balloon Pop, Expresses “Solemn Protest”

The US military shot down a high-altitude balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, intensifying the diplomatic rift between Beijing and Washington. The US believed that the balloon was involved in espionage activities, while China insisted it was a civilian research vessel that had been blown off course. 

China’s Defense Ministry spokesperson, Tan Kefei, expressed “solemn protest” against the US’s actions and stated that China reserves the right to deal with similar situations in the future. The Foreign Ministry accused the US of “overreacting” and “seriously violating international practice.”

“The Chinese side has repeatedly informed the US side after verification that the airship is for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure – it was completely an accident,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

China insists that the balloon was for civilian use and that it entered US airspace due to “force majeure,” which would excuse its owners from liability if an unforeseen incident, such as a natural catastrophe, prevents it from performing its obligations under a contract. 

“China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant companies, while reserving the right to make further necessary reaction,” the foreign ministry wrote.

Also on Saturday, the head of the China Meteorological Administration Zhuang Guotai was removed from his post, according to the country’s state media. Analysts say that Zhuang’s removal was an attempt on Beijing’s part to ease the situation before President Joe Biden ordered the balloon to be shot down.

But reports also say that Zhuang was scheduled to leave his post as he was recently elected head of the western Gansu province’s People’s Political Consultative Committee.

Taiwan authorities have also commented on the situation, stating that the Chinese balloon incident “should not be tolerated by the civilized international community.” 

The self-governed island has experience with similar balloons — labeled as “meteorological observations” — overflying its territory, once in September 2021 and another in February last year, but it’s unclear if the balloons were the same as the one shot down by the US.

Taiwan called on China’s autocratic government to “immediately cease conduct of this kind that encroaches on other countries and causes regional instability.”

“Such actions by the Chinese Communist Party government contravene international law, breach the airspace of other countries, and violate their sovereignty,” the self-governed island’s foreign ministry said in a statement. 

US officials have pushed back on China’s claims that the balloon was simply for civilian use and had entered American airspace by accident. A senior US administration official stated that the balloon was a People’s Republic of China (PRC) surveillance balloon seeking to monitor sensitive military sites. The official also said that another PRC surveillance balloon had been spotted over Central and South America, bearing similar technical characteristics to the one that flew over the US.

Additionally, CNN reports that this was not the first Chinese balloon incident in the US. Citing a senior administration official, there were allegedly three suspected Chinese spy balloons that were spotted over the continental US during Donald Trump’s administration, and this was only uncovered after President Biden assumed the presidency.

Trump administration Defense Secretary Mark Esper denied the possibility.

“I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,” Esper said, while former president Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social that reports of Chinese balloons flying over the US during his time are — confusingly — “fake disinformation.”

Information for this story was found via Twitter, CNN, the Independent, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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