China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released a statement expressing its “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the use of force” by the United States military after it shot down a suspected Chinese military ISR balloon off the coast of South Carolina yesterday.
“China expressed strong dissatisfaction and protest against the use of force by the United States to attack civilian drones. After verification, China has informed the United States many times that the airship is of a civilian nature and entered the United States due to force majeure, which is completely accidental. China clearly requires the United States to properly deal with it in a calm, professional and restrained manner,” the Ministry said.
The statement concluded by adding “A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense also said that the balloon would not pose a military and personal threat to people on the ground. Under such circumstances, the United States insisted on using force, which obviously overreacted and seriously violated international practice. China will resolutely protect the legitimate rights and interests of relevant enterprises, while retaining the right to make further necessary reactions.”
As mentioned above, the Chinese government acknowledged that the balloon was of Chinese origin, but claimed that it was a civilian airship meant for meteorological purposes, adding that its flight path over the United States was unintended. The Pentagon, however, stated that the balloon was maneuverable and purposefully flew over several sensitive military facilities. Military officials, however, downplayed the balloon’s intelligence threat, arguing that satellite imaging would be more effective in monitoring said facilities. It remains unknown at this time what the balloon’s payload was and whether or not it was used just for imaging.