China confirms it refused US call over 'irresponsible' balloon shootdown

AFP , Thursday 9 Feb 2023

China said Thursday it refused an offer of a call with the US defense chief because of Washington's "irresponsible" decision to shoot down an alleged surveillance balloon last week.

Chinese Balloon
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recovering a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Feb. 5, 2023. AP


"This irresponsible and seriously mistaken approach by the US did not create a proper atmosphere for dialogue and exchanges between the two militaries," China's defence ministry said in a statement.

"The US insisted on using force to attack the airship, which seriously violated international practice and sets a bad precedent," it added.

"China reserves the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations."

The Biden administration last week shot down a large white balloon after it drifted across the United States, saying it was being used by China for surveillance purposes.

Beijing admitted that the inflatable had originated in China, but has insisted it was for civilian use.

The episode led US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a visit to Beijing aimed at reducing tensions as he accused China of violating US sovereignty.

Blinken said he sought to maintain communication with China, but a Pentagon spokesman said China rebuffed a request for a call between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe immediately after the shootdown.

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