China doubled down on its claim to the downed balloon on Tuesday after Washington expressed “no intention” of returning the alleged spy article.
“The balloon does not belong to the United States, it belongs to China,” Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said when asked that the United States had no plans to return the remains of the Chinese balloon.
“The US side should have properly handled the accident in a calm, professional manner, but the US insistence on using force is clearly an overreaction,” Mao said, according to China’s Global Times daily, insisting the balloon was for civilian use. .
She added that the Chinese government will “firmly protect its legitimate rights.”
Beijing’s comments came after US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said there was “no intention of putting the pieces back”.
“I know of no such intention or plans to bring it back,” he told reporters on Monday, adding that Washington was recovering the wreckage of the downed Chinese balloon in the Atlantic for analysis by intelligence experts.
The United States on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese “spy” balloon that was spotted over American airspace off the coast of South Carolina.
China has since accused Washington of “damaging” progress made in bilateral relations by using “indiscriminate force” to bring down the alleged spy bubble.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his US counterpart Joe Biden in Bali, Indonesia last November, where the two sides agreed to maintain high-level communication.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was due to travel to Beijing this weekend, but postponed it due to the balloon incident.
Beijing, however, insisted that the “civilian” airship had inadvertently entered US airspace due to force majeure.
After the balloon was located by Washington, Beijing said it told the US it was a “civilian airship”.
A US Air Force F-22 fighter jet fired an AIM-9X air-to-air missile and shot down the balloon, the Pentagon said Saturday, despite acknowledging that the balloon did not pose a military or physical threat.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the decision was made at the behest of US President Joe Biden.