Spy balloon fallout worsens between US, China

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — One week after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was taken down off the coast of South Carolina, a fourth object has been shot down across the skies of North America, fueling speculation amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China.

The Chinese Defense Ministry rebuffed a call from the Pentagon last week, and now both sides are criticizing one another after the downing of the suspected Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 4, after it drifted across the continental U.S. for days.

In response to the Chinese balloon, the United States postponed a visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

China said the balloon was a civilian research craft that had mistakenly blown off course and accused the United States of overreacting.

“The first thing the U.S. side should do is to look at itself, to change its ways, not to smear and incite confrontation,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The fallout from these incidents has led to tension between China and the US only growing worse.

China said on Monday that U.S. high-altitude balloons had flown over its airspace without permission more than 10 times since the beginning of 2022, widening a diplomatic row after the U.S. military shot down what it says was a Chinese spy balloon.

“Since last year, the U.S.’s high-altitude balloons have undergone more than 10 illegal flights into Chinese airspace without the approval of the relevant Chinese departments,” Wenbin said at a regular briefing in Beijing in response to a question.

Wang did not specifically describe the balloons as military or for espionage purposes and did not provide further details.

Asked how China had responded to such incursions into its airspace, Wang said its responses had been “responsible and professional.”

An excerpt from an op-ed posted in the China Daily went off about the U.S. response saying President Joe Biden’s handling “has shown to the world how immature and irresponsible — indeed hysterical — the U.S. has been in dealing with the case.”

U.S. military leaders said the balloon eventually shot down off the Carolina coast had spying capabilities. The whole incident though has made tension even worse between the two countries.

During a hearing last Thursday on Capitol Hill, one defense leader spoke about how top Chinese military command recently declined a call from the U.S. defense secretary after the U.S. shot down the balloon. 

“We think that’s really dangerous. We continue to have an outstretched hand, including immediately following the downing of the balloon. And unfortunately to date, the PLA is not answering that call,” said Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.

Since the China balloon incident, three other flying objects have been shot down over North America.

In the most recent incident, the U.S. military has shot down an unidentified octagonal object over Lake Huron, U.S. officials announced on Sunday. 

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement the object was downed on President Joe Biden’s order as its path and altitude raised concerns, including that it could be a hazard to civil aviation.

Wang said he had no information on the latest three objects shot down by the U.S.

Crews continue to recover debris from that Chinese balloon off the ocean floor near the Carolina coast. This has lasted days. Investigators say they hope to learn more about the spying capabilities of the balloon. 

Reuters contributed to this story.


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