China’s rocky relationship with the United States has ballooned off course, sparking diplomatic hot air and Cold War rhetoric.
In a surreal 72 hours, Beijing and Washington have been locked in a standoff after a suspected Chinese “spy” balloon was spotted last week flying over Montana.
The US state is home to part of an extensive US nuclear arsenal, triggering a war of wars between the world’s two economic superpowers.
By Sunday, the US Navy was scouring the coastline of South Carolina after the high-tech airship was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean by an F-22 fighter jet.
“The US attack on [a] Chinese civilian unmanned airship by force is an obvious overreaction,” People’s Liberation Army Colonel Tan Kefei, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a statement as reported by the state-run Global Times.
“China will reserve the right to take necessary measures in dealing with similar situations,” he added.
- The balloon was first sported over Alaska more than a week ago.
- It then made its way across Canada before reentering American airspace.
- Beijing originally apologized for the incident, expressing “regrets” about what it described as a civilian weather balloon.
- But the Pentagon insisted it was being used for “Chinese surveillance” over the US.
- A second balloon has been spotted over Latin America.
Diplomatic fallout: The backlash from the airship controversy forced US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to scrap his high-stakes Beijing trip. He was due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.
Rabid response: On Monday, the state-owned China Daily accused Washington of being “paranoid” in an editorial.
Between the lines: “The balloon is an excuse, not the cause of the postponement [of Blinken’s visit]. The true cause lies in US domestic politics … and the US media hyping-up of the [balloon] issue,” China Daily fumed.
Big picture: Beijing has been caught with its pants down in this game of spies. It comes at a time when Washington is beefing up its military cooperation with Japan and the Philippines amid China’s threats to invade Taiwan.
China Factor comment: Comrade Xi is milking every drop of bile from “balloongate” to cover up his shambolic coronavirus policy. In December, he finally ditched his “zero-Covid” strategy. Since then, up to 80,000 people have died in a matter of weeks. But the true figure could run into at least one million.