China brands US resolution on ‘spy balloon’ incident political manipulation

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The Chinese government has dismissed a resolution by the US House of Representatives, condemning China over a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down above American waters as “purely political manipulation and hyping up”.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters at a daily briefing: “China is strongly dissatisfied with this and firmly opposes it.

“The resolution by the US congress was purely political manipulation and hyping up.”

China US
China’s defence ministry spokesman Tan Kefei (AP)

Republicans have criticised US President Joe Biden for not acting sooner to down the balloon, but both parties came together on the vote in US congress, 419-0.

China insists the object was a civilian weather balloon that had been blown off course, but has not said who it belonged to or offered other details.

Earlier, Chinese officials said they refused a call from US defence secretary Lloyd Austin following the shooting down of the balloon because the US had “not created the proper atmosphere” for dialogue and exchange.

The US action had “seriously violated international norms and set a pernicious precedent”, ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei was quoted as saying in a statement issued late on Thursday.

“Given that this irresponsible and seriously wrong approach by the US did not create the proper atmosphere for dialogue and exchanges between the two militaries, China did not accept the US proposal for a phone call between the two defence ministers,” Mr Tan said.

China, Mr Tan added, “reserves the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations”.

Beijing insists the object was a civilian weather balloon that had been blown off course, but has not said who it belonged to or offered other details.

Lloyd Austin
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin (AP)

Beijing said the US “overreacted” by shooting it down. The foreign ministry has labelled the action “irresponsible” and calls American claims that it was spying “part of the US side’s information warfare against China”.

Mr Austin had sought on Saturday to discuss the balloon issue with his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, but this was refused, the Pentagon said.

In the wake of the incident, US secretary of state Antony Blinken cancelled a planned trip to Beijing this week that some had hoped would help stabilise bilateral relations, which have fallen to their lowest level in decades.

The US has flatly contradicted China’s version of events, saying that imagery of the balloon collected by American U-2 spy planes as it crossed the country showed that it was “capable of conducting signals intelligence collection” with multiple antennas and other equipment designed to upload sensitive information and solar panels to power them.

The US says the balloon was part of a huge, military-linked aerial surveillance programme that targeted more than 40 countries under the direction of the People’s Liberation Army.

Similar balloons have sailed over five continents, according to the administration.

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