Spy balloon shot down: “China expresses its strong dissatisfaction”
Beijing expressed its “strong displeasure” on Sunday after the United States shot down the Chinese balloon that had been flying over its soil for several days, and said it “reserves the right” to retaliate.
Saturday's operation by an F-22 fighter jet took place “over water off the coast of South Carolina, in airspace American,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement. He pointed out that it was carried out in response to an “unacceptable violation” of American “sovereignty”.
“China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and protests against the use of force by the United States,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it “reserves the right” to retaliate. p>
Washington allegedly “clearly overreacted” and “seriously violated international practices,” according to the same source.
Pentagon says it was a spy balloon . The balloon “was being used by the People's Republic of China in an attempt to monitor strategic sites” in the United States, Mr Austin said.
Mr Biden congratulated the pilots who carried out this delicate operation “successfully”. He said he had given the order on Wednesday to shoot down the balloon “as soon as possible”, but that the Pentagon wanted to wait for “the safest place to do so”, in order to avoid any damage to the ground during the fallout. any debris.
This decision was also welcomed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Together (…) we will continue to protect and defend ourselves,” he tweeted on Saturday.
Recovery operations, which could involve divers, are now in progress. The debris is in shallow water, “that's going to make it pretty easy,” a senior military official said.
In videos broadcast by TV stations on Saturday, the balloon appears to be falling at the vertical after an impact.
At the time of being shot down, the balloon was about 18 kilometers above sea level and 11 kilometers from the coast, according to Pentagon officials.
Shortly before, air traffic was suspended at three airports in the southeastern United States as a “national security” measure, the American civil aviation regulator (FAA) had announced. It was one airport in North Carolina and two in South Carolina. Traffic resumed shortly after the operation was completed.
This case has cast a chill over relations between Washington and Beijing, causing the postponement of a visit by the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken to China.
This visit would have been the first of a US Secretary of State since October 2018.
According to Pentagon officials, the balloon first entered US airspace on January 28 over Alaska, before entering Canada on January 30, then re-entering space. American air force at Idaho, in the northwest of the United States, on January 31, that is to say last Tuesday.
But, apparently, the Americans would not have learned of the existence of this balloon than on Thursday, when it was over Montana, which is home to nuclear missile silos. It then gradually moved towards the east of the country.
If Beijing acknowledged that the device had come from China, it was however specified that it was a “civilian aircraft, used for research purposes, mainly meteorological”.
The aircraft would have “deviated from its trajectory”, added a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressing the “regrets” of his country for this “involuntary” violation of American airspace.
“I salute the leadership of President Biden for shooting down the Chinese balloon above the water, to keep all Americans safe,” Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted on Saturday. “Now we can collect the equipment and analyze the technology used” by China, he added.
On Friday, the Pentagon said that a second Chinese balloon had been spotted above Latin America.
“Chinese surveillance balloons passed briefly over the United States at least three times during the previous administration, and once at the start of this administration, d 'after what we know, but never for so long,' a senior US official said on Saturday.