China says US damaged ties by shooting down airship balloon over Atlantic

Beijing, Feb 6 (EFE).- China on Monday urged calm and restraint amid a growing diplomatic row with the United States over the shooting down of a Chinese “civilian” airship balloon over the Atlantic.

Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said the US had seriously damaged bilateral ties by using military force to shoot down the pilotless airship from China used for civilian flight tests and research purposes, especially in “meteorology.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters that the ship had veered off its course before it strayed into the skies over Latin America and the Caribbean due to force majeure.

She described the US response “to an isolated incident” as “exaggerated.”

“The matter should be dealt with calmly without the use of force,” Mao said.

She said China had always abided by international law.

“It will not pose any threat to any country,” the spokesperson said.

“We reserve the right to respond appropriately.”

Asked if China and the US were communicating over the issue, Mao said Beijing had been continuously asking the US “to handle the matter in a clear, professional, and restrained matter.”

“In disregard of China’s repeated explanations, the US insistence on using force is obviously an overreaction, and China firmly opposes it,” Mao said.

Vice Minister Xie said the US military reaction had seriously impacted and damaged both bilateral efforts and progress in stabilizing Sino-US ties,

In a note to the US embassy in Beijing, Xie referred to a summit between presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in November in Bali, which was widely seen as the first step to normalizing deteriorating ties between the two powers.

He accused Washington of “seriously violating the spirit of international law.”

“(China) reserves the right to make further necessary reactions…(to) protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and uphold the interests and dignity of the country.”

The US shot down the balloon on Saturday on a direct order by President Biden.

Washington said the Chinese balloon had been flying over the country for several days.

The remains of the airship fell into the sea and were being salvaged to know the details of a mission “used by the PRC (People’s Republic of China) in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States,” the US Defense Department said.

China admitted on Friday that the balloon belonged to it, assuring that “it is a civilian airship used for research purposes, mainly meteorological.”

Washington said the balloon’s route passed over several “potentially sensitive” sites, which contradicts Beijing’s explanation.

The discovery of the “spy balloon” in US airspace triggered a diplomatic crisis between the US and China.

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