China has gone on the offensive with its rhetoric in regard to the multiple balloons or else ‘unidentified objects’ reported shot down by the US military in the last days over North America. China has been under pressure to respond for more than a week now, as the Chinese ‘spy’ balloon saga has pervaded international headlines.
Its foreign ministry on Monday decried US hypocrisy in asserting that the United States breached Chinese airspace without permission at least 10 times with high-altitude balloons since early 2022. As Beijing officials have suggested they are currently tracking more.
“It is nothing rare for U.S. balloons to illegally enter other countries’ airspace,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters in a daily briefing. “The U.S. should first reflect upon itself and change course instead of smearing other countries.”
Wang was addressing Sunday reports out of China that officials had monitored and were preparing to shootdown an unknown object near a northern port city.
“The Qingdao Marine Development Bureau sent a message to fishing boats that an unidentified flying object was detected over waters near Rizhao and authorities were preparing to be able to shoot it down, Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper reported on Sunday,” South China Morning Post writes.
However, despite the alarmist announcement, which seemed a mirror image of Washington’s highlighting the latest ‘balloon threats’ over the American continent, details out of Beijing regarding what it says it’s monitoring remain scant: Wang did not provide further details about the alleged incursions or say whether the balloons appeared to be military in nature or used for spying purposes. He said China reserves the right to use “any necessary means” to deal with such situations.
Presumably, this means China’s military could soon go on a shooting spree, taking out any potential foreign balloons over or near its airspace.
The Biden administration was quick to respond hours after the allegations from Beijing, with National Security Spokesperson Adrienne Watson saying the following: Any claim that the US government operates surveillance balloons over the PRC is false. It is China that has a high-altitude surveillance balloon program for intelligence collection, that it has used to violate the sovereignty of the US and over 40 countries across 5 continents.
Given the intensifying rhetoric, which has served to bring US-China relations to yet another new recent low, will this go down in history as the bizarre ‘balloon war’ of 2023?