The spy balloon crisis risks causing an escalation between the US and China
The Chinese spy balloon that flew over US territory for days last week was shot down. Thus ended, only momentarily but spectacularly, a crisis that rekindled diplomatic tensions between the two major world powers. It was the US president himself, Joe Biden, who gave the order to shoot down the spy balloon: he did so on Wednesday, but Pentagon men advised him to wait to wait for “the safest place to do it,” given the balloon’s enormous size (like three busses). The spy balloon was thus shot down when it was already over the Atlantic Ocean, where its remains fell, off Myrtle Beach. The collection of the remains – which could give valuable indications of the nature of the aircraft – began immediately.
The shootdown took place at 2:38 p.m. Atlantic time. Shortly before, the Federal Aviation Administration had suspended departures and arrivals at the airports of Wilmington, NC, and in Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina. After all, Biden had made it clear that something was moving. “We’ll take care of it,” he said in the middle of the day to accompanying reporters, as soon as he disembarked from Air Force One in Syracuse, New York State.
The Pentagon announced Thursday that it was following the movements of a Chinese spy balloon that had flown over the state of Montana, where one of the three warehouse sites that store US nuclear missiles is located on US territory. But Pentagon leaders immediately said they did not want to take any action for security reasons, as the debris could fall on the population. However, as soon as the aircraft entered the Atlantic Ocean, it was decided to shoot it down and it was a fighter to complete the operation: the fighter jet was also filmed from the ground, pointing towards the balloon before firing a missile.
The presence of what, for the US, is a spy balloon has triggered a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Beijing which has led to the cancellation of the trip that the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, had planned to make to China. A visit that would have been the first by a minister of the Biden government to China and in which Blinken would have perhaps also met President Xi Jinping himself. LChina actually denies that it is a spying aircraft, has called for calm and expressed “regret” for what happened: the balloon would have been nothing more than an airship used for meteorological research, with limited self-driving capabilities and dragged into that area by westerly winds. Even today, in a new note, Beijing reiterated that it was an incident due to “force majeure” and indeed accused some US politicians of wanting to “throw mud on China”. But the US is adamant: for Washington it was an “unacceptable” violation of sovereignty.
Spy balloon, China: “We reserve reactions to US excesses”
China has expressed “strong dissatisfaction” and has complained to the United States over the shooting down of the spy balloon that had been flying over US territory for days, and asks the US to handle the situation “correctly, in a calm, professional and sober way”. This can be read in a note issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “The United States insists on using force, obviously overreacting and seriously violating international practice”, continues the Beijing diplomacy statement, reiterating that the airship was “for civilian use” and that it entered US airspace “for reasons of force majeure” and in a “completely accidental” manner. China, the note concludes, “will resolutely safeguard the rights and legitimate interests of the companies concerned, reserving the right to carry out further necessary reactions”.
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