China expressed strong dissatisfaction and protest on Sunday against the US' move to shoot down a non-threatening Chinese airship for civilian use, calling the US' move an overreaction and vowing to reserve the right to take necessary actions. By turning an unintentional accident into an incident that has been hyped by the US officials and media, Washington is adding new uncertainties into the already-intense relations with China, creating a bad precedent for blurring the line between civilian and military uses, experts said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed strong dissatisfaction and protested against the US' use of force to shoot down a Chinese civilian unmanned airship, urging the US to properly handle the incident.
The Chinese side has verified the situation and communicated with the US side multiple times, saying the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace was due to force majeure and the incident was totally an accident, the ministry said.
The US military on Saturday local time shot down a "suspected Chinese spy balloon" off the Carolina coast following an authorization of the Biden administration after the airship has been flying over the US for days. The action was hailed by the US President Joe Biden as "a success," according to US media reports.
The "balloon episode" went viral on the US social media. A number of US hawks on China-related matters have been hyping the use of balloon for spying purpose and deliberately distorted it as "a direct assault on the US national sovereignty."
"The US attack on Chinese civilian unmanned airship by force is an obvious overreaction," Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, a spokesperson at China's Ministry of National Defense, said in a statement on Sunday.
China will reserve the right to take necessary measures in dealing with similar situations, Tan said.
Tan's remarks mean that if a foreign airship accidentally enters the Chinese airspace, the Chinese forces could also shoot it down in a similar manner, observers said.
Biden was first briefed on the balloon Tuesday and has been receiving updates from his national security team, CNN said. The Pentagon earlier said on Friday that the balloon did not pose a "military or physical" threat.
Despite China's multiple communication with the US, the US government decided to shoot down a non-threatening airship that accidentally entered its airspace, turning an accident into an incident, which also added new uncertainties into already strained US-China relations, some Chinese experts said. From the military perspective, the latest action of the US is like "shooting a mosquito with cannon," experts said.
Although the US knows that this airship is harmless, it insisted on shooting it down to maintain its dominant position and it's also believed that the US is very interested in our related technology so that it needs to obtain it in such improper way, Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"In fact, such high-altitude balloon is equipped with cutting-edge technologies in terms of material, which the US side may have yet had. Shooting it down caused the loss for the Chinese side and the relevant technology research firm has the right to file claims against the US," Lü said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the balloon is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.
However, some US politicians and media have been hyping the so-called threat of this civilian airship, for example, Republican senator Tom Cotton and Texas governor Greg Abbott have been urging the Biden administration to bring it down, otherwise, it's dereliction of duty.
"From the US government to public opinion, the balloon incident has been exploited to instigate fermenting anti-China sentiment, which will only make the US' China policy more aggressive," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The US ignoring the communication with the Chinese side further shows that the US lacks sincerity. Although it has been talking about setting the guardrails for the US-China relations, it has been blatantly sabotaging these guardrails, Li said.
Overreaction, bad precedent
The US shooting down the Chinese civilian balloon is also considered an overreaction from a technical point of view, said military aviation experts.
Despite admitting that the balloon did not pose a military or physical threat, an F-22 fighter of the US Air Force fired an AIM-9X air-to-air missile and shot down the balloon, supported by F-15 fighters, tankers and warships, the Pentagon said on the day on its website.
The missile was fired from the F-22 from an altitude of 58,000 feet (17,678 meters) when the balloon was 60,000 and 65,000 feet, the Pentagon said.
This is like shooting a mosquito with a cannon, which is not only overreacting but also impractical, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.
Compared with an unmanned balloon that flies with the wind, the US interception method that featured an advanced stealth fighter jet and fired a missile is too costly. If more balloons, not necessarily from China, fly across the US, the US Air Force would be exhausted and may even be bankrupted in intercepting them in this way, the expert said.
It is more of a political show, as the balloon was only shot down after it already travelled across the US and was about to leave, experts said.
Some experts also believe that shooting down a harmless airship is like "shooting down an unarmed civilian," creating a bad precedent for interaction between China and the US.
It's widely known that US aircraft, appearing in civilian or military purposes, operate around China much more frequent than Chinese aircraft do around the US, Lü noted.
"If the US does not differentiate between civilian and military aircraft, then it has made a very bad precedent in treating the China-US relations," he said.
The US frequently conducts close-in reconnaissance on China's doorsteps in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits and the East China Sea, sometimes in civilian disguises, according to a think tank and media reports.
"If the US does not make the difference, should China make a difference? Should China also take reciprocal measures? The US must carefully consider the consequences," Lü said.
Source: The Global Times.