China threatens retaliation against US over downed spy balloon

China warned Wednesday that it will retaliate against the US for allegedly undermining its sovereignty after the Air Force downed a spy balloon earlier this month.

Speaking at a daily press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated Beijing’s official position that the balloon was an unmanned weather airship that was accidentally blown off course — and accused the Biden administration of overreacting in shooting it down with a missile fired from an F-22 fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina Feb. 4.

In the wake of the incident, the US has sanctioned six Chinese entities it said are linked to Beijing’s global surveillance program.

“The US has abused force, overreacted, escalated the situation, and used this as a pretext to illegally sanction Chinese companies and institutions,” Wang said.

“China is firmly opposed to this and will take countermeasures against relevant US entities that undermine China’s sovereignty and security in accordance with the law.”

A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.
China on Wednesday threatened to retaliate against US entities for the shooting down of its balloon, which Washington said has been used for surveillance purposes.

China will “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and its legitimate rights and interests,” Wang added.

The official did not say which US entities China plans to punish and offered no details on the planned “countermeasures.”

While China denies the balloon was a military asset, it has yet to say what government department or company was responsible for its operation.

The remnants of a large balloon drift above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, with a fighter jet and its contrail seen below it, Feb. 4, 2023.
A missile fired from an F-22 fighter jet downed the spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4.

After initially expressing regret over the balloon’s unsanctioned entry into US airspace, China has escalated its rhetoric against Washington, claiming earlier this week that the US had flown more than 10 high-altitude balloons in its airspace over the past year.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby categorically denied China’s accusation.

“Not true. Not doing it. Just absolutely not true,” he said in an interview with MSNBC Monday. “We are not flying balloons over China.”

U.S. Navy sailors recover a mysterious high-altitude balloon from the Atlantic Ocean for transport to federal agents at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on February 10.
The US Navy recovered the downed balloon from the ocean on Feb. 10.
U.S. Navy/Cover Images/

The latest round of mutual recriminations comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken is said to be weighing a meeting with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference this week.

Blinken had previously canceled a planned visit to Beijing that many hoped would stabilize relations that have unraveled amid disputes over trade, human rights, Taiwan and China’s claims in the South China Sea.

Adding more fuel to the fire Wednesday, US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said the Chinese balloon’s intrusion was part of a pattern of aggressive behavior by Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during an event with the South Korean foreign minister about the Chinese surveillance balloon identified in U.S. airspace February 3.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had cancelled a planned trip to China in the wake of the balloon incident.
Getty Images

China State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the conflict in Ukraine on September 22, 2022 in New York City.
Blinken is weighing a meeting with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in Munich.
Getty Images

Emanuel noted China’s recent beaming of military-grade laser on a Philippine coast guard patrol vessel, the harassment of US planes by Chinese jets and China’s opening of illegal police stations in the US, Ireland and other countries.

“The balloon to me is not an isolated incident,” Emanuel said.

If China wants to be a respected member of the international community, the envoy added, “then you act appropriately to certain basic premises. that is you don’t open police stations in other countries ignorant of their laws, as if your laws don’t have any boundaries.”

With Post wires

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