China is threatening to respond with ‘resolute action’ which American defense experts say could result in ‘further provocations’ after the U.S. finally shot down their spy balloon.
Beijing’s Foreign Ministry last night slammed the move as a ‘clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.’
An F-22 Raptor fighter jet took down the balloon with a single AIM-9X sidewinder missile at 2.38pm on Saturday, off the coast of South Carolina.
Beijing issued a chilling statement saying it ‘reserves the right to make further responses if necessary.’
‘The Chinese side has, after verification, repeatedly informed the U.S. side of the civilian nature of the airship and conveyed that its entry into the U.S. due to force majeure was totally unexpected,’ the Ministry said.
‘The Chinese side has clearly asked the U.S. side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner,’ it added.
‘The spokesperson of the U.S. Department of Defense also noted that the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.
‘Under such circumstances, the U.S. use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.
‘China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the company concerned, and reserves the right to make further responses if necessary.’
With the U.S. bracing for China’s next move, Dr. James Anderson, a former Trump administration Defense official, told Fox News Beijing ‘will continue to claim that the United States ‘overreacted’ in shooting down the spy balloon.’
‘Beijing may also engage in further provocations against U.S. interests in the days ahead,’ Anderson warned, suggesting China could interfere with the recovery of the debris and its surveillance payload.
‘It is possible, though one would certainly hope unlikely, that in the coming days one or more PLA-directed maritime vessels may seek to interfere with the recovery effort of the balloon debris located within U.S. territorial waters,’ he told Fox.
‘If this were to happen, U.S. warships would be fully justified in providing any such intruders with one-way tickets to the bottom of the ocean.’
As the Navy and Coast Guard work to secure a perimeter around the downed craft, it also emerged overnight that three other Chinese spy balloons had entered U.S. airspace during the Trump administration but the public was never informed and the balloons were never shot down.
Republican leaders, nevertheless, called on Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to resign over the latest incident.
Heino Klink, a former deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, agreed that China will likely throw accusations against the U.S. for taking down the balloon.
‘They’ll claim that it was all completely innocent. That it was a weather balloon,’ Klinck told Fox.
‘They’ll reiterate the statements they’ve made before. But in essence, as is the norm for them, they’ll launch counteraccusations and deny that they were in the wrong.
‘It is the norm for them to try to portray themselves as the innocent actor abiding by international law and international standards of conduct, when in fact it’s the exact opposite,’ he added.
Klink also warned that China could use the incident to try and justify ‘incursions into Taiwanese airspace.’
A senior military advisor told Fox News that the debris field of the downed balloon was about seven-miles wide, with the depth of the waters estimated at 47 feet.
While multiple Navy and Coast Guard vessels are in the area establishing a security and search perimeter, the senior advisor said an official salvage vessel won’t arrive until a couple of days.
There is currently no timeline on the recovery of the balloon from the Atlantic Ocean, but officials estimated that it would be done in a short time.
When recovered, the balloon debris will be analyzed in Quantico, Virginia, home of the FBI headquarters.
China has long-claimed that the surveillance balloon was actually a civilian craft that had floated off course.
Their state-owned news outlet, The Xinhua News Agency, accused the U.S. of using the balloon incident as a way to create ‘hype’ over a Chinese threat.
‘The U.S. is being urged to be more sincere in making concrete moves to solve problems with China, instead of making more provocations, analysts said,’ Xinhua reported.
Amid the reaction from China and outrage from the U.S. over the balloon, it was revealed three Chinese spy balloons previously entered the U.S. during the Trump administration.
In reporting the latest of the Chinese balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, the US Department of Defense said three other of these crafts ‘briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration.’
The revelation startled Mark Esper, the former Secretary of Defense, who told CNN that he was ‘surprised’ by the Pentagon’s statement.
He said he was never told about Chinese surveillance balloons entering the US when he served between July 2019 to November 2020.
‘I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,’ Esper said, adding that ‘I would remember that for sure.’
Just before the revelation, Republicans had claimed Trump would have shot down Chinese spy balloons while also calling on Joe Biden to resign over the stalled attack on the craft.
US. Rep. Joe Wilson, of South Carolina, said both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris should resign because of the fiasco.
‘The catastrophic Chinese Spy Balloon spectacle clearly threatened American families from Alaska to my home community in South Carolina and confirms President Biden and Vice President Harris should resign,’ Wilson said in a tweet.
‘It is irrelevant for American families which party is in power because the first criteria of a leader should be their capability regardless of party, and sadly Biden and Harris are failures,’ he added.
US Sen. Josh Hawley had called for a hearing against Biden on the ‘major domestic security threat.’
He tweeted: ‘The Homeland Security Committee needs to have public hearings NOW on the Chinese spy balloon – how did Biden let this happen.’
Footage of the jet shooting down the balloon showed the aircraft screaming towards it before firing a missile as stunned locals watched from the coast.
President Joe Biden praised the Top Gun fighter jet pilot who shot it down, telling reporters: ‘I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible without doing damage to anyone on the ground.
‘They decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water.’
‘They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,’ the President added as he stepped off Air Force One en route to Camp David at Hagerstown Regional Airport, Maryland.
The Pentagon confirmed: ‘The balloon, which was being used by the People’s Republic of China in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above US territorial waters.’
Defense officials estimated the balloon was about the size of three buses and that the debris field was substantial.
Biden first became aware of the balloon on January 28, when it was spotted over Alaska. The US military tracked it over Canadian airspace and as it re-entered US territory on Tuesday.
The following day, Biden was given a detailed report on the aircraft and its course, attended by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
Biden initially wanted to take it down but Milley and Austin argued the risk from falling debris was too great, sources revealed.
Meanwhile, the administration went to the Chinese embassy for an explanation and continued making preparations for Blinken’s landmark diplomatic visit.
The administration finally told the public on Thursday after a local Montana paper, the Billings Gazette, published photos of the balloon.
The Biden’s administration’s attempts to hide the blatant US airspace violation from the public for almost a week and inaction over the threat to national security have infuriated Republicans.
‘Communist China’s surveillance balloon violates international law and threatens our homeland,’ Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) told The New York Post.
‘It’s an outrage that the Biden Administration spotted this balloon days ago as it was flying over the Aleutian Islands and did nothing about it,’ she said. ‘The president has not even made a comment about this unacceptable act of aggression by the CCP.’
The emergence of the spy aircraft comes on the heels of a classified report to Congress which outlined advanced new technology that US adversaries were harnessing to spy on the country.
The report last month mentioned at least two incidents of a rival power conducting aerial surveillance with what appeared to be unknown cutting-edge technology, sources told The New York Times.
Although the report did not single out any country, two US officials familiar with the research named China.
The two sites where the unusual surveillance was detected included a military base in the US and another overseas.
Since 2021, the Pentagon has studied 366 unexplained incidents and determined that 163 were balloons.
A handful of these were advanced surveillance balloons, a US official told the Times.
The detection of the balloon, which triggered alarm in the White House and the Pentagon, adds to a series of recent controversies that have further strained the tense relationship between China and the United States.
Beijing had urged calm while it established the ‘facts’ before a statement yesterday morning said the balloon was a weather research device that had ‘deviated far from its planned course’.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it regretted that the balloon had mistakenly entered US airspace.