'Deep mistake': China accused of 'gross' move as tensions rise

Beijing has hit back with its own accusations aimed at the US.

China has made a "deep mistake" over the use of its surveillance balloons in US airspace, a former British spy boss has claimed.

It comes as the fallout between the US and China intensifies, with Beijing hitting back with its own accusations involving the illegal navigation of high-altitude balloons.

Former head of MI6 Sir Alex Younger said the airspace activity posed a serious threat to several nation's sovereignty and those countries can rightly feel aggrieved.

"It is a deep mistake by China to underestimate the effect that this was going to have," he told BBC Radio, The Telegraph reports.

A stern faced Xi Jinping wearing a suit inside Chinese government.
Sir Alex Younger says Xi Jinping now faces another big test in dealing with the fallout over the balloon. Source: AP

"I think it wasn’t properly thought through and it is really difficult for [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] because... he’s spent a lot of time, he is proposing a new security architecture for the world, it is called the global security initiative and it is about the indivisible rights and interconnected security of developing countries and China’s role in safeguarding that in contrast to sort of US recklessness.

"This just flies absolutely in the face of that. This is just a gross and really visible transgression of the sovereignty of many nations."

Sir Younger said he anticipated the US and the West to heavily condemn China over the balloons, outlining "the manifest hypocrisy that this programme involves", adding he believes such a reaction is warranted.

Military drills above the Nevada desert were undertaken this week as tensions rise with China. Source: Channel 4
Military drills above the Nevada desert were undertaken this week as tensions rise with China. Source: Channel 4

China points finger at the US

A Chinese balloon, which Beijing denies was a spy vessel, spent a week flying over the US and Canada before President Joe Biden ordered it shot on February 4. The US military has since carried out three more shootdowns as it combs the skies for objects that were not being captured by radar.

The balloon has seriously derailed attempts between the two countries to reset relations, and while Biden downplayed the severity of the threat posed by the balloon, his commentary that suggested China and Xi had "enormous problems" to deal with domestically has enraged Beijing.

China says it was an overreaction to shoot down the balloon and on Monday said Washington was responsible for similar navigations in other nations' airspace.

"US balloons have often entered other countries’ airspace illegally. Since last year, US high-altitude balloons have flown over Chinese airspace over ten times without authorization from China," foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. "The US needs to reflect on its own behavior and change course rather than attacking others and stoking confrontation."

The White House has disputed China's allegations. Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, tweeted on Monday: "Any claim that the US government operates surveillance balloons over the PRC is false."

Washington has imposed sanctions on six Chinese entities it says are tied to the balloon, an action which drew criticism from Beijing on Tuesday.

With Reuters

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