China to take measures against US entities over balloon incident

China has said it will take measures against US entities related to the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the American east coast.

At a daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin gave no details and did not identify the targets of the measures.

China says the balloon was an unmanned weather airship that was accidentally blown off course and accuses the US of overreacting in bringing it down with a missile fired from an F-22 fighter jet.

Since the February 4 downing of the balloon, the United States has sanctioned six Chinese entities it said are linked to Beijing’s aerospace programmes.

Secretary of state Antony Blinken also cancelled a visit to Beijing that many hoped would stabilise ties that have cratered amid disputes over trade, human rights, Taiwan and China’s claim to the South China Sea.

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

After initially expressing regret over the balloon’s entry into US airspace, China has returned spying accusations against Washington, alongside its threats of retaliation.

“China firmly opposes this and will take countermeasures in accordance with the law against the relevant US entities that undermine China’s sovereignty and security,” Wang said at Wednesday’s briefing.

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

US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, also speaking on Wednesday, said the Chinese balloon’s intrusion was part of a pattern of aggressive behaviour by Beijing.

Mr 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.

US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel speaks during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo
US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel speaks during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

If China wants to be a respected member of the international community, “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”, he said.

“This is not exactly the qualities and characteristics of the good neighbour policy,” the ambassador said, referring to China’s outreach to countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

On Tuesday, Japan’s Defence Ministry said at least three flying objects spotted in Japanese airspace since 2019 were strongly believed to have been Chinese spy balloons.

It said it has protested and requested explanations from Beijing.

Senior legislators in Japan’s governing party on Wednesday said they were considering expanding the Self Defence Force law to also include violations of Japanese airspace by foreign balloons.

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