US urged to reflect on its own behavior with its balloons breaching China's airspace at least 10 times last year
Frequently shooting down unidentified objects exposed hysteria, vulnerability
Published: Feb 13, 2023 10:22 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2023 12:14 AM
US overreacts by shooting down Chinese weather balloon. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Uncle Sam's overreaction. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

The US has illegally flown its high-altitude balloons over Chinese airspace more than 10 times without permission since the beginning of last year and China had acted professionally in handling these incursions, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday, calling the US the world's biggest "Spying Empire" by sending numerous spy airships worldwide and urging it to stop smearing others and instigating confrontation. 

In response to a string of questions regarding the recent balloon incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing on Monday that the US has illegally flown its high-altitude balloons over Chinese airspace more than 10 times without Chinese authorities' permission since the beginning of 2022.

It is not rare for US balloons to enter the airspace of another country illegally, Wang said, noting that China's handling of the incursions is responsible and professional. 

The remarks came after CNN reported that the US military shot down another airborne object over Lake Huron on Sunday on the orders of US President Joe Biden, citing the Pentagon. The operation marks the third day in a row that an unidentified object has been shot down over North American airspace after a Chinese civilian unmanned airship used mainly for meteorological research purposes was taken down on February 4. 

The US' frequent use of its armed forces to shoot down so-called unidentified objects only exposed its paranoia and hysteria, which also reflected its vulnerability, Chinese experts said.

Largest 'Spying Empire'

The Chinese civilian unmanned airship flying into US airspace is an accident caused by force majeure, but the US' frequent firing of advanced missiles to shoot down unidentified flying objects is an excessive use of force, Wang said.

The practice was not only questioned by many people in the US but also wasted taxpayers' money without bringing actual benefits to its people, Wang said. 

In fact, the US is the world's largest surveillance and reconnaissance country, with the largest global spying network, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. 

The US' National Security Agency (NSA) monitors the content of text messages and calls of political leaders in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and other European countries. The US secretly installed monitoring equipment in nearly 100 of its embassies and consulates abroad to steal secrets from the host country, Wang said.

According to a report by information security media agency "Anzer" in 2022, the NSA remotely stole 971 pieces of global Internet data and 1,241 phone records in 30 days, involving the personal privacy of a large number of citizens in various countries. 

Recently, an unmanned US boat used to gather data underwater was discovered in the waters of Namibia. Local media generally believe that this unmanned boat is actually a US spy ship. How many spy airship and balloons has the US launched around the world? The US knows very well. Who is the world's largest spy monitoring empire? The international community also sees this very clearly, Wang said. 

The US has also frequently sent aircraft and warships to conduct close-in reconnaissance on China, with 657 flights in 2022 and 64 flights in the South China Sea in January this year alone, which seriously jeopardized China's national security and undermined regional peace and stability, Wang said.  

Despite White House national security spokesperson John Kirby on Monday denied that the US has been flying balloons over China, Chinese experts said that the facts pointed out by China are setting things straight, and allow the global community to understand the truth and facts about the US-China conflict and help other countries see through the US-led slander and smear campaign against China, some experts said. 

The latest development also happened after an F-16 fighter shot down the airborne object flying at an altitude of about 6,000 meters over the state of Michigan on Sunday. On Saturday, a US F-22 warplane fired a missile that shot down an object flying at 12,000 meters over the Yukon in the far north of Canada on the joint orders of Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

"It's unlikely that the most recent three unidentified objects belong to China, as they flew at much lower altitudes compared to the Chinese high-altitude balloon. Judging from the altitude, they are completely different types of object," Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"It's highly likely that the US, due to certain emotions, has to attach more importance to matters that they did not pay attention to before," Lü said. "Using advanced missiles to shoot down those objects is like shooting a mosquito with cannon."

Paranoia and hysteria

Some Chinese experts believe that the US is now in a paradoxical mindset. On the one hand, it has to increase so-called monitoring of its airspace following the Chinese balloon incident - a topic that Republicans have been using to blast the Biden administration as "irresponsible" - but on the other hand, continuing to shoot down unidentified objects exposes its vulnerable mindset, and the US government should be transparent on what those objects that could pose potential risks to civil aviation are. 

"The US is now very vulnerable in its sense of security and has showed growing anxiety, driving it to shoot down aerial objects one after another," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Monday. 

However, while it has yet to clearly state where those objects come from, US public opinion will connect the moves with the Chinese balloon, which also shows that their perception of China has become more negative in the country, and the Biden administration has become less flexible in its China policy, Li said. "This reduction in flexibility makes any possible improvement in China-US ties very difficult."

The US Navy and Marine Corps are holding joint exercises in the South China Sea at a time of heightened tensions between China and the US over the balloon incident, the AP reported on Monday. 

The 7th Fleet based in Japan said Sunday that the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been conducting "integrated expeditionary strike force operations" in the South China Sea, the media report said. 

Also on Sunday, media reported that local maritime authorities in East China's Shandong Province had spotted an unidentified flying object in waters near the coastal city of Rizhao in the province, and were preparing to shoot it down. 

In response to a question regarding the report, Wang said "the relevant Chinese department has released the notice. I would refer you to the relevant department."

When asked about how China will react if another US balloon flies into Chinese airspace again, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Monday that China reserves the right to use any necessary means to deal with similar situations. 

"No country can guarantee that similar accidents will not happen. The US side should treat them objectively and rationally and properly handle them in a calm, professional and restrained manner," Wang said.