US sets a bad precedent by abusing its force toward the sky: Global Times editorial
Published: Feb 19, 2023 07:42 PM
Uncle Sam's overreaction. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Uncle Sam's overreaction. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

During his visit to Europe, Wang Yi, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, made a sharp criticism regarding the "balloon incident." He said that Chinese unmanned civilian airship deviated from its planned course and entered US airspace due to force majeure, and this is an isolated and unexpected accident that should have been handled in a calm, rational and professional manner. However, the US side has ignored the basic facts and continued to confuse the public, and this almost hysterical act of the US has shown that its prejudice and ignorance towards China has reached a preposterous level.  

The "balloon incident" has been brewing for a while, and the facts are already very clear. Wang accurately defined the US practices in three phrases: abusing force, overreacting and hyping the situation. This is a solid conclusion based on facts and international law. The whole incident was a case of the US abusing force, politicizing and magnifying a random accidental event, and smearing China. The US has not only escalated the issue but also confused the international community. Therefore, it is necessary for us to repeat what is right and what is wrong in this not so complicated accident to the world, in a bid to ensure a correct understanding of the facts.

There are precedents for this kind of incident, but no one has been as unprofessional as the US. Here are several key facts that need to be reiterated: first, this was a civilian unmanned airship; second, the airship entered US airspace due to force majeure; third, the airship posed no threat to the US; and fourth, China communicated with the US about the accidental entry. That is to say China has always strictly adhered to the relevant provisions of international law and acted with a highly responsible attitude. However, the US chose the most violent and drastic way of handling the situation - wielding military force instead of law enforcement force, using advanced fighter jets and firing missiles to shoot down the unmanned airship, which violates both the Article 2(4) UN Charter that "All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force" and the principles of necessity and proportionality in the international practice regarding the use of force. It is a typical case of abuse of force.

According to the provisions of Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), civilian unmanned airship has the same legal status as civil aircraft. This Convention can totally be used as a reference to handle the matter calmly, rationally, and professionally, and based on which, according to customary international law, when civil aircraft are affected by force majeure such as weather and mechanical failures, they may enter the airspace of the other party without being considered as intruding other's airspace, that is, it is not illegal and there is no need to bear international responsibility.

The US responded to the civilian unmanned airship and the "unidentified flying object" that posed no threat by deploying multiple fighter jets. Moreover, it closed airspace and hyped the incident both domestically and internationally in a way similar to live broadcasts. Afterwards, the US Congress also passed relevant resolutions. Such a high-profile hype clearly stems from politicized ulterior motivations. As previously pointed out in our editorial, this is an absurd and expensive large-scale political behavioral art.

It is important to emphasize that the behavioral art performed by the world's top military power is not just a show for the American public; it is also perilous and could even lead to unexpected conflicts. What we are witnessing is a country with the world's biggest destructive power showing little restraint in its destructive capabilities and exhibiting an excessively neurotic reaction to an accidental event. This means huge risks for the world.

US fighter jets later fired missiles to shoot down three "unidentified flying objects," only to find that they had nothing to do with China and may be used for meteorological or entertainment related purposes. The US manifestly ignored the internationally accepted practice of distinguishing between military and civilian purpose. A few days ago, a club of hobbyists called the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade claimed that the flying objects shot down by US fighter jets over Canadian airspace could be theirs. But this did not alleviate controversy about the US' excessive use of force. Some US hobbyists believe that the US government officials "overreacted," and others pointed out, "When they shot them down, they didn't know what they were. That's a little concerning."

US' abuse of force this time has set an extremely bad and dangerous precedent and intensified the entire global situation. Wang pointed out in Munich that What the US needs to do is demonstrate sincerity, and face up to and resolve the damage that this incident has brought to China-US relations. To be honest, it is not only the Chinese people who object to the US' practice; the whole world is concerned about a US like this. After all, missiles are not used for fun, and Washington's abuse of force will surely arouse the international community's vigilance.