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Downed spy balloon leads to rise in diplomatic tensions between U.S. and China

The Chinese spy balloon might be down, but the diplomatic temperature continued to rise Sunday as officials in Beijing blasted the U.S. decision to shoot it out of the sky. 

Describing it as “a clear overreaction,” Tan Kefei, a spokesperson for China’s Defense Ministry, said in a statement Sunday that his country reserved “the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations.” In a similarly strongly worded statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said it was “a serious violation of international customary practice.” 

Both statements described the balloon as a “civilian unmanned airship,” and China had previously said the orb was used for research and “meteorological purposes.”

An American F-22 Raptor shot down what the Defense Department called a “high-altitude surveillance balloon,” with a single missile off South Carolina on Saturday afternoon. The U.S. military will now focus on salvaging parts of the craft from a debris field that spans about 7 nautical miles. 

First spotted over Montana, which is home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, the site of one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields, the massive white orb, which is about the size of three school buses, headed southeastward over Kansas and Missouri at around 60,000 to 65,000 feet. 

Shortly after the strike, President Joe Biden told reporters that he made the order to shoot it down after he was briefed about it Wednesday but that the Pentagon “decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water.” 

While he described the Chinese suggestions of further action as “ominous,” David Sacks, a research fellow in U.S-China diplomacy at the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said he doubted it had done much to alter relations between the two countries.

“They will issue a statement with a little bluster in it, but I don’t think that China is going to try to respond in any way,” he said, adding that escalating the issue would be of little benefit to China.

Beijing would not have wanted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone his visit to China, which had been scheduled to start Monday, Sacks said. 

Source: NBC News



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