The Chinese foreign ministry responded to the U.S. military shooting down its spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday by claiming without evidence that the balloon was a civilian object and that the country was extremely upset by the action.
An F-22 Raptor took out the spy balloon with one air-to-air A9X sidewinder missile that was fired at an altitude of approximately 58,000 feet. The decision to shoot down the spy balloon came after President Joe Biden allowed the balloon to fly thousands of miles over the continental U.S. during the last several days.
“China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US’s use of force to attack civilian unmanned aircraft,” the statement claimed. “The Chinese side has repeatedly informed the US side after verification that the airship is for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure – it was completely an accident.”
“China clearly asked the US to handle it properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner. A spokesman for the US Department of Defense also stated that the balloon will not pose a military or personal threat to ground personnel,” the statement continued. “China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant companies, while reserving the right to make further necessary reaction.”
Biden tried to take a victory lap over the weekend after the spy balloon was shot down, claiming that he “ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible,” but that the decision was made to not shoot it down over land because debris could cause damage when falling to the ground.
U.S. officials were reportedly “well aware” that the balloon had crossed into American airspace on January 28 and that it was over Idaho on Tuesday, but decided not to inform the public to not upend Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s diplomatic trip to China.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the spy balloon was sent to the U.S. “in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.”
Biden faced intense scrutiny from top lawmakers who said that the spy balloon should have been shot down last month when it crossed over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.