Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng on Monday continued to push his nation’s narrative that the suspected Chinese spy balloon that entered American airspace this past week was a civilian craft that had been blown off course.
Xie made the claim in a statement when he lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. Embassy over President Joe Biden‘s decision to shoot down the balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday afternoon.
According to the Associated Press, Xie said he lodged the complaint on Sunday for the “U.S. attack on a Chinese civilian unmanned airship by military force.” His statement also stressed China’s stance that the balloon’s course over the United States was accidental and should not result in accusatory statements.
“However, the United States turned a deaf ear and insisted on indiscriminate use of force against the civilian airship that was about to leave the United States airspace, obviously overreacted and seriously violated the spirit of international law and international practice,” Xie said, per the AP’s translation.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng is seen during a press conference in Hong Kong on February 7, 2020. Xie announced on Monday that he lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. Embassy for downing a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had flown over the U.S. Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Image
The balloon was first spotted on Wednesday flying over Billings, Montana. By the following day, U.S. officials said they were confident that the balloon came from China and contained surveillance equipment.
“I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible. They decided—without doing damage to anyone on the ground—they decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water,” Biden told reporters Saturday. “Within the 12 mile limit, they successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it.”
The alleged spy balloon has caused relations between the U.S. and China to become even more tense, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken indefinitely postponing his trip to Beijing. Xie’s statement reflected the escalated political strain between the two countries as a result of the balloon.
“What the U.S. has done has seriously impacted and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress in stabilizing Sino-U.S. relations since the Bali meeting,” Xie said, referring to a November meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Indonesia.
On Friday, a statement from China’s foreign ministry denied the balloon was a surveillance craft and instead characterized it as a civilian research airship used for gathering weather data. The statement also said that the balloon had “deviated far from its planned course” due to strong winds.
“The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” the ministry’s statement said. “The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation…”
Xie also referred to the balloon incident as “an accidental incident caused by force majeure,” according to the AP.
He added that China will “resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, resolutely safeguard China’s interests and dignity and reserve the right to make further necessary responses.”
Newsweek reached out to China’s Embassy in the U.S. for comment.