What is known about the situation around the Chinese balloon over the U.S.
A few days ago a Chinese balloon appeared over U.S. territory. In the United States it was mistaken for a reconnaissance balloon, while the PRC asserted that it was a deviated weather balloon. The balloon was eventually shot down.
- The Pentagon reported on February 2 about a Chinese balloon that had appeared over the continental United States. The agency said at the time that it was a reconnaissance balloon. The Pentagon later noted that the appearance of the Chinese probe violated international law.
- China called the object seen over the United States a meteorological probe. China’s Foreign Ministry explained that due to strong westerly winds, the balloon lost control and deviated from its set course. The ministry urged to avoid speculation about the “spy balloon.”
- A senior U.S. defense official said the Chinese probe entered U.S. airspace on January 28 and Canadian airspace on January 30. On Jan. 31, he said, the balloon returned to United States airspace over northern Idaho. The U.S. military “did not have an opportunity to fire on it over the waters after it entered Alaskan airspace,” the Pentagon spokesman explained.
Reaction of U.S. and Chinese authorities
- In connection with the incident, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken postponed a visit to China, a decision that the administration in Washington supported. He reiterated his intention to maintain contacts with Beijing. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the postponement of Blinken’s visit was “a matter for the United States itself.”
- In a conversation with Wang Yi, head of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and a member of the Politburo, the U.S. Secretary of State called the incident with the PRC’s weather balloon a violation of U.S. sovereignty. Wang Yi himself pointed to the unacceptability of the hype created by the U.S. over the accidental penetration of a Chinese balloon into U.S. airspace.
- Congress demanded that U.S. President Joe Biden immediately shoot down the “Chinese spy balloon.” The American leader initially ignored the questions about the balloon that they tried to ask him on February 3 during an approach to journalists devoted to the economy. The next day, Biden said the U.S. would “take care” of the situation around the PRC’s weather balloon.
Destroying the balloon
- The U.S. president did not specify what he meant by “taking care.” However, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin soon announced that the probe had been shot down. The operation involved F-22 fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. According to a CNN source, one AIM-9X missile was fired at the target.
- The Chinese Foreign Ministry protested on February 5 against the U.S. actions that resulted in the shooting down of a Chinese balloon. The day before, the protest was made “due to the fact that some politicians and media in the United States took advantage of the said topic to slander and attack the PRC.” The balloon’s appearance over the U.S. was “an absolute accident caused by force majeure.”
- Biden said that he had ordered the shooting down of the Chinese weather probe on February 1 “as soon as possible,” but the Defense Department recommended that it wait because of security issues.
- The Chinese Defense Ministry said after the probe was destroyed that it could respond to U.S. situations similar to the balloon incident.
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