Since January 2022, China has said that the US has flown high-altitude balloons into its airspace more than 10 times without permission. This comes as tensions between the two countries rise after a Chinese balloon was shot down by American fighter jets after traveling across the continental US.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry made the claim without any proof, and it comes less than a day after China said it was getting ready to shoot down an unidentified object flying near its east coast.
Monday, at a regular news conference, a ministry spokesperson named Wang Wenbin said, “It’s common for US balloons to break the law and fly into the airspace of other countries.” “Since last year alone, American high-altitude balloons have illegally crossed China’s airspace more than 10 times without the approval of relevant Chinese authorities,” Wang said.
It is not apparent why China did not make these details public sooner, nor is it clear whether China replied to the purported incursions as they were taking place.
Wang also accused the United States of frequently sending warships and planes to carry out close-range reconnaissance against China, which he claimed amounted to a total of 657 times last year – and 64 times this January in the South China Sea. He made this accusation in reference to the Spratly Islands, which are located between the United States and the Philippines.
“For the longest time, the US has abused its own technological advantages to carry out large-scale and indiscriminate wiretapping and theft of secrets from all over the world, including from its allies,” Wang said, adding that the US is “without a doubt the world’s largest surveillance habitual offender and surveillance empire.”
Wang said this in response to a question about who in China owns the balloon that US fighter jets shot down on February 4. The spokesperson also criticized the US Commerce Department for adding six Chinese companies with ties to the Chinese military’s aerospace programs to its Entity List on Friday. This makes it harder for these companies to get US technology without permission from the government.
“China is very unhappy with this and is firmly against it. Wang said, “We will do what we need to do to protect the legal rights and interests of Chinese businesses and institutions.” He said that the US was “hyping up and exaggerating” the situation and “using it as an excuse to punish Chinese businesses and institutions illegally.”
“Unknown flying object” near the coast of China
Also, on Sunday, maritime officials in China’s Shandong province said they had seen a “unidentified flying object” over the water near the port city of Rizhao and were “getting ready to shoot it down,” according to a state-run news outlet.
In a text message to fishing boats, maritime officials in the nearby port city of Qingdao told crews to stay alert to stay out of harm’s way and help if they could with debris cleanup.
“If something falls near your boat, please help gather evidence by taking photos. Please help save it if you can, said the marine development department of Qingdao’s Jimo district in a message that The Paper reported on. The report didn’t say what kind of object it was, where it might have come from, or how high it was flying.
As of Monday afternoon local time, Chinese officials and state media had not said anything new, and it was not clear if the object had already been taken down.
Even though we don’t know much about it, the unidentified object has gotten a lot of attention on China’s tightly controlled social media, which has led to hundreds of millions of views. Many people watched what state media said about how the US reacted to the Chinese balloon.
Sources told CNN that the device was part of a fleet of Chinese surveillance balloons that the US intelligence community has been watching for the past year. So far, officials say, the US has found what they think are Chinese balloons over 40 countries on five continents.
Beijing says the device was a civilian airship used for research that got blown off course. In the US, where the balloon caused serious public concern, it became a source of humor on Chinese social media, where nationalists made fun of the US for how it reacted to a “weather” balloon.
China’s Foreign Ministry said that the US “overreacted” and “seriously broke international rules” when it shot down the Chinese balloon. The Chinese Defense Ministry said that China “reserves the right to use whatever means are necessary to deal with similar situations.”
On Sunday night, Chinese social media was full of excitement because many people were waiting for the thing that was floating off the coast of China to be taken down. “Because the US showed us how to do it, we have to make a big deal out of it when we shoot it down,” said a top comment on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.
By Monday morning, the unidentified object was the top trending topic on Weibo, with two related hashtags getting more than 900 million views. Many people, some of them with a sense of disappointment, wanted to know why the authorities hadn’t given any new information about the shoot down.
“After waiting all night, why is there still no exciting news?” a comment asked.
China is said to have found the unidentified flying object at the same time that the US and its allies are paying more attention to flying objects in their airspace. Since Friday, the US has shot down three unidentified objects over North American airspace, in the skies over Alaska, northern Canada, and Lake Huron.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Defense have said that the recent objects were not a “kinetic military threat,” but because they were flying so high, they could be dangerous for civilian aviation.
“In light of the People’s Republic of China balloon that we took down last Saturday, we have been more closely scrutinizing our airspace at these altitudes, including enhancing our radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in objects that we detected over the past week,” said Melissa Dalton, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs.