BEIJING/WASHINGTON – US balloons illegally flew over China more than 10 times since the beginning of 2022, according to Chinas foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.
It is nothing rare for US balloons to illegally enter other countrys airspace, Mr Wang told reporters at a regular briefing in Beijing on Monday.
The US needs to reflect upon itself and change its wrong practice, he added. We reserve the right to take necessary means to deal with relevant incidents.
The comments mark the first time China has accused the United States of sending balloons over its territory since the American military downed a Chinese machine earlier in February that it said was used for surveillance. China previously said its balloon was designed to research the weather and had inadvertently flown off course.
In the briefing, Mr Wang sidestepped a question about a report in The Paper, a Chinese media outlet, which said China was getting ready to take down an unidentified object flying over its waters near the port city of Qingdao.
Meanwhile, Taiwans military on Monday said it reserved the right to shoot down any Chinese balloon it deems a threat.
The Financial Times reported that the balloon flights in the islands territory by Chinas military are frequent, with one occurring in recent weeks, citing a senior official from Taiwan. The devices appear in the airspace of Taiwan about once a month, another official said.
The ministry has rules in terms of response and will continue revising the rules in a timely manner to respond to new threats such as balloons, defence ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said in a phone call.
The military will adopt appropriate measures, including shooting threats down, according to the level of concern, he added.
On Sunday, US military fighter jets shot down an octagonal object over Lake Huron. It was the fourth unidentified flying object to be shot down over North America by a US missile in a little more than a week.
On President Joe Bidens order, a US F-16 fighter shot down the object at 2.42pm local time over Lake Huron on the US-Canada border, Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder said in an official statement.
Though it did not pose a military threat, the object could have potentially interfered with domestic air traffic, as it was travelling at 6,100m, and it might have had surveillance activities, Brigadier-General Ryder said.
The object appeared to be octagonal in structure, with strings hanging off but no discernable payload, said a US official speaking on condition of anonymity.
The object was believed to be the same as one recently detected over Montana near sensitive military sites, prompting the closure of US airspace, the Pentagon said.
The military will try to recover the object downed over Lake Huron to learn more about it, General Glen VanHerck, head of the US North American Aerospace Defence Command and Northern Command, told reporters.He said it likely fell into Canadian waters. The US military had an extremely close eye on an object above Lake Huron. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS The incident raised questions about the spate of unusual objects that have appeared over North American skies in recent weeks and raised tensions with China.
We need the facts about where they are originating from, what their purpose is, and why their frequency is increasing, said US Representative Debbie Dingell, one of several Michigan lawmakers who applauded the military for downing the object.
US officials identified the first object as a Chinese surveillance balloon and shot it down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb 4. Last Friday, a second object was shot down over sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska. And a third object was destroyed over Canadas Yukon the next day, with investigators still hunting for the wreckage.
The security of citizens is our top priority, and thats why I made the decision to have that unidentified object shot down, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Sunday.
North America has been on high alert for aerial intrusions following the appearance of a white, eye-catching Chinese airship over American skies earlier in February.
That 60m-high balloon which Americans have accused Beijing of using to spy on the US caused an international incident, leading Secretary of State Antony Blinken to call off a planned trip to China only hours before he was set to depart. Your browser does not support iframes, but you can use the following link: Link Pentagon officials said they have been scrutinising the radar more closely since then.
Surveillance fears appear to have US officials on high alert.
Twice in 24 hours, US officials closed airspace only to reopen it swiftly.
On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration briefly closed airspace above Lake Michigan. A day earlier, the US military scrambled fighter jets in Montana to investigate a radar anomaly there.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told US broadcaster ABC that US officials think two of the latest objects were smaller balloons than the original one.
The White House said only that the recently downed objects did not closely resemble the Chinese balloon, echoing Mr Schumers description of them as much smaller.
We will not definitively characterise them until we can recover the debris, which we are working on, a spokesman said. More On This Topic Has a balloon made the world a more dangerous place? Chinese balloon-spotting around the world Debris in remote locale
The Canadian authorities may have their own challenges trying to piece together what was shot down over the Yukon. The territory is a sparsely populated region in Canadas far north-west, which borders Alaska. It can be brutally cold in the winter, but temperatures are unusually mild for this time of year, which could ease the recovery effort.
Republican lawmaker Mike Turner, who serves on the US House Armed Services Committee, suggested the White House might be overcompensating for what he described as its previously lax monitoring of American airspace.
They do appear somewhat trigger-happy, Mr Turner told CNN on Sunday. I would prefer them to be trigger-happy than to be permissive.
Republicans have criticised the Biden administration over its handling of the incursion by the suspected Chinese spy balloon, saying it should have been shot down much earlier. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS More On This Topic Canada hunting for debris of UFO shot down over Yukon China getting ready to take down unidentified object flying near Qingdao: Chinese media