BEIJING — China accused the United States on Monday of indiscriminate use of force after the U.S. military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday.
The US shot down a balloon off the coast of Carolina as it passed over sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted that the flyover was a civilian aircraft accident.
Vice Foreign Minister Xi Feng said he lodged a formal complaint with the US embassy on Sunday over the “US attack on a Chinese civilian drone by military force”.
The balloon’s presence in the skies above the US dealt a major blow to already strained US-Chinese relations that had been on a downward spiral for years. This prompted Secretary of State Antony Blanken to abruptly cancel a visit to Beijing in a bid to ease tensions.
Xi reiterated China’s insistence that the balloon was a Chinese civilian unmanned aerial vehicle that was mistakenly flown by the US, calling it an “accidental event caused by force majeure”.
China will “resolutely protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, resolutely safeguard China’s interests and dignity, and reserve the right to make further necessary responses,” he said.
U.S. officials said U.S. President Joe Biden ordered the shooting after he was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water. Military officials determined that bringing the balloon down to Earth from an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,000 m) would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.
“What the US has done has seriously affected and harmed the efforts and progress of both sides in consolidating China-US relations since the Bali meeting,” Xi told Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Indonesia. referring to the recent meeting between Ping that many had hoped for. It will create positive momentum to improve relations which have reached their lowest level in years.
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