China media's furious response to 'spy balloon' spotted over US

Chinese state media has accused the US of “hyping” up the suspected spy balloon spotted in American skies, instead claiming it’s a weather balloon that simply got blown off course.

The Global Times, a renowned mouthpiece for Beijing, published a scathing article slamming America’s response to the balloon as “utterly chaotic”.

The huge white balloon – as large as three buses – was first spotted over Montana, with stunned residents noticing the white orb in the sky and questioning its origin.

A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.
The U.S. is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over U.S. airspace for a couple days. Source: AP

The US government confirmed they had been tracking the balloon since Tuesday, and despite China’s claims that it’s harmless, there are calls from many right-wing politicians to have the balloon shot down.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson released a statement on Friday saying a "civilian airship had strayed into US territory after being blown off course”.

"Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into the US airspace due to force majeure," said the spokesperson.

But the US doesn’t buy their claim.

On Friday, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said the balloon had changed course and was now floating eastward at about 18,300 metres above the central United States and demonstrating a capability to manoeuvre.

He said it would likely be over the country for a few more days.

The Pentagon's disclosure about the balloon's manoeuvrability directly challenges China's assertion about the balloon being blown off course.

The Global Times claimed the US’ reaction to the balloon has dealt another blow to Sino-American relations.

“Before being clear of the facts, the US military and media accused China of spying, and this incident has brought the US' recent hyping of the ‘China threat’ to a new level, with some Chinese analysts saying the stunt, which was not backed by concrete proof, may bring new tensions to China-US relation,” the Global Times piece read.

Secretary of State postpones China visit

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a visit to China on Friday after the balloon’s discovery.

The postponing of the trip, which had been agreed to in November by President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, is a blow to those on both sides who saw it as an overdue opportunity to stabilise an increasingly fractious relationship. The last visit by a US secretary of state was in 2017.

Blinken said his focus was on resolving the current incident.

"The first step is ... getting the surveillance asset, out of our air space," he said, adding that the United States would continue to maintain open lines of communication with China.

Ryder told reporters on Thursday the balloon was at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and did not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.

Another official said the flight path would carry the balloon over a number of sensitive sites, but did not give details. Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana is home to 150 intercontinental ballistic missile silos.

The National Weather Service in Kansas City said on Twitter it had received multiple reports across northwestern Missouri of a large balloon.

China has often complained about surveillance by the United States, including its deployment of ships or planes near Chinese military exercises.

with AAP

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