Friday, March 24, 2023

Beijing tells US to investigate balloons allegedly flown over China

China urged the United States on Tuesday to conduct a “thorough investigation” into what Beijing claims was a string of incursions into its airspace by US balloons, reports AFP. Relations between Washington and Beijing have nosedived following the shooting down of what the US alleges was a Chinese spy balloon — China insisted it was an errant weather observation aircraft with no military purpose.
A number of unidentified aerial objects have subsequently been shot down over North America, though the US has not attributed them to China.
On Tuesday, Beijing doubled down on unsubstantiated allegations that the US has sent over 10 balloons since last year.
“The US has launched several high-altitude balloons from the US that made continuous round-the-world flights, illegally flying over the airspace of China and other countries on at least 10 occasions,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing. “The US side should conduct a thorough investigation and give an explanation to China,” he added.
Wang did not provide evidence of the alleged incursions, which he said started in May 2022. He previously told journalists the incursions began in January that year.
Washington has denied Beijing’s claims that it sent observation devices into Chinese airspace. The US government alleges the balloon it shot down on February 4 was part of an ongoing, global “fleet” of Chinese espionage balloons. It says the balloon was obviously a spy craft and that the debris is currently being plucked from the Atlantic Ocean for analysis.
Taiwan threatens to shoot down any Chinese balloons
Amid speculation over alleged Chinese spy balloons, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Tuesday it would shoot down any suspected military object coming close to its shores from mainland China. Maj. Gen. Huang Wen-chi, the assistant deputy chief of general staff for intelligence, told reporters that the self-governing island was on guard for any incursions, but had yet to find any that had penetrated its defences.
Balloons found so far around Taiwan were used for meteorological exploration, he said. They were relatively small and light and would burst after rising to an altitude that could be threatening. Taiwan has yet to find targets requiring a lethal response, he said. “We haven’t seen such sophisticated spy balloons sent by the Chinese Communist Party in the waters near Taiwan,” Huang said, referring to the balloon shot down by the US earlier this month after travelling for days from above Alaska to South Carolina.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory to be reunited by force if necessary, regularly sends fighter jets and other military assets into Taiwan’s airspace and sea lanes.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called the US downing of the Chinese balloon a “clear overreaction”. Beijing says it was an unmanned airship made for meteorological research that had been blown off course.
The US military had engaged an “absurd and costly large-scale political performance art show. We also advise the US side to be careful about overexerting itself and spraining its back”, Wang said at a daily news briefing.
The White House defended the shootdowns of three unidentified objects in as many days even as it acknowledged that officials had no indication the objects were intended for surveillance in the same manner as the high-altitude Chinese balloon.


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