The recent incident involving a Chinese surveillance balloon hovering across North America has caused a stir in international relations. The United States House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution condemning Beijing’s statements about the balloon, and China has accused the United States of lying to the world in response.
“China is strongly dissatisfied with this and firmly opposes it,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a daily briefing Friday. He accused the U.S. lawmakers of “hyping up” the balloon for “purely political manipulation.”
The stern statement came the day after Republicans and Democrats united in a 419-0 vote to condemn Beijing for a “brazen violation” of U.S. sovereignty and efforts to “deceive the international community through false claims about its intelligence collection campaigns.”
The balloon was detected and photos were widely shared online, leading China to claim the object was a civilian weather balloon that had blown off course. Beijing failed to provide any additional information, including the balloon’s self-steering capabilities or its modern signal surveillance techniques that were “capable of conducting signals intelligence collection” with multiple antennas and other equipment designed to upload sensitive information and solar panels to power them, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. also said the balloon was tied to a major surveillance program run by China’s military, which includes the use of similar aircraft in more than 40 countries under the direction of the People’s Liberation Army. Similar balloons have sailed over five continents, according to the U.S.
A State Department official said the balloon manufacturer has “a direct relationship with China’s military and is an approved vendor” of the army. State-owned defense contractor China Electronics Technology Group said in 2021 that radar equipment and other devices to eavesdrop and interfere with telecommunications could be attached to its JY400 balloon.
The balloon hovered between 60,000 and 80,000 feet above Earth and completed its trek across the U.S., traveling over or near several U.S. military bases before the Air Force shot it down off the coast of the Carolinas.
After initially expressing “regret” over the incident, China has ramped up its rhetoric against the U.S. for what it called an “irresponsible and seriously wrong approach by the U.S.” China’s Defense Ministry said it refused a call from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as the U.S. had “not created the proper atmosphere” for dialogue.
The U.S. “seriously violated international norms and set a pernicious precedent,” ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said Thursday. Tan also said China “reserves the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations.”
Beijing said the U.S. “overreacted” in its decision to shoot down the aircraft and said the U.S. claims that it was spying is “part of the U.S. side’s information warfare against China.”
The incident has highlighted the ongoing tensions between the United States and China over trade and human rights violations, as well as China’s threats against Taiwan and the Chinese military’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea.
The U.S. and China remain at odds over the capabilities of the balloon, with the U.S. maintaining that it was a sophisticated surveillance aircraft and China claiming it was a harmless weather balloon.
The incident has caused Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a planned trip to Beijing that was intended to help stabilize bilateral relations. It remains to be seen how the two countries will move forward in the wake of this latest incident.
Ultimately, the incident highlights the importance of international cooperation in order to ensure the safety of all nations and the security of their citizens. It is clear that the U.S. and China must work together to ensure that similar incidents do not happen in the future.