The United States military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday, using an AIM-9X air-to-air missile. The balloon was first detected over Alaska on Jan. 28 and was shot down by U.S. fighter jets in U.S. airspace at 2:39 p.m. ET on Saturday.
An F-22 fighter jet fired a heat-seeking missile at the balloon as it floated off the South Carolina coast. The balloon was shot down about six nautical miles off the U.S. coast of the Atlantic Ocean, and multiple U.S. military vessels were on site.
China condemned the military strike, and the U.S. government ordered a halt to flights in and out of three airports in South Carolina prior to the shootdown. The U.S. relationship with China is likely to be a major theme of the 2024 presidential race.
It is clear that the US overreacted when it attacked our civilian unmanned airship with force. In a statement released on Sunday afternoon local time, Tan Kefei, a spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, expressed solemn opposition to the US side’s action.
He continued by saying that China “reserves the right to adopt appropriate tools to cope with such situations.”
After US military fighter planes on Saturday shot down the balloon over the Atlantic Ocean in a mission President Joe Biden hailed as a success, China’s Foreign Ministry earlier on Sunday accused the US of “overreacting” and “seriously breaking international practice.”
On Friday, a Chinese balloon was spotted over Latin America, and US military jets shot down the same spy balloon on Saturday. China admitted responsibility for the balloon, but said it was intended for civilian purposes.
This incident has caused a diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing, with US President Joe Biden approving the plan to bring down the balloon on Wednesday. It is believed that the balloon was being used to monitor sensitive military sites, prompting the Pentagon to call it an “unacceptable violation” of its sovereignty.
China has since lodged a formal complaint with the US embassy in Beijing, and the planned trip of Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China has been cancelled due to the row. As the US shot down the Chinese spy balloon, the diplomatic relations between the two countries are all time low. It is believed that spy balloon move by China is the beginning of new information cold war.