On Saturday, a suspected Chinese spy balloon was shot down by the Air Force as it drifted over the Atlantic just off the South Carolina coast, ending an unusual series of events that further strained tensions between China and the United States.
Initially spotted by civilian air passengers late last week as it drifted over Montana, China quickly claimed ownership of the balloon, which sported a payload roughly the size of three school buses, claiming it was “a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” according to a statement released by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course,” the statement read. “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.”
“The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation,” the statement added.
Following its shoot down by an Air Force F-22 Raptor over the weekend, China has characterized the U.S. response as an “attack” which they claim violates “the spirit of international law” and potentially worsens relations between the countries.
In a complaint to the U.S. Embassy on Sunday, Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng called the shoot down a “U.S. attack on a Chinese civilian unmanned airship by military force,” adding that the U.S. “turned a deaf ear and insisted on indiscriminate use of force against the civilian airship,” which Xie said was “about to leave the United States airspace.”
In his complaint, the Vice Foreign Minister asserted that the U.S. “obviously overreacted and seriously violated the spirit of international law and international practice.”