China condemned the U.S. military’s decision on Saturday to shoot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over the U.S. last week.
“China strongly disapproves of and protests against the U.S. attack on a civilian unmanned airship by force,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday morning, per the South China Morning Post.
“The U.S.’s use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice,” the ministry added, noting that Beijing reserves the right to make “further responses that are necessary.”
A “high-altitude surveillance balloon” first entered U.S. airspace in Alaska on Jan. 28. After briefly traveling through Canadian airspace, it returned to the U.S. via Idaho on Jan. 31 and spent the rest of the week traversing the country.
Beijing confirmed on Friday that the balloon was Chinese, but claimed that it was primarily used for meteorological research and had been blown off course.
“The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” a ministry spokesperson said.
However, American officials have maintained that the balloon was surveilling “strategic sites” within the U.S., leading Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone his trip to Beijing on Friday.
“We have noted the [People’s Republic of China] statement of regret, but the presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable that this has occurred,” a senior State Department official said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry hit back at the U.S. on Saturday in a statement, alleging that some politicians and the media have “hyped” up the situation in order to “attack and smear China.”
The U.S. military waited to shoot down the balloon until Saturday afternoon, when it was over water off the coast of South Carolina, due to safety concerns. They are now working to recover debris and intelligence information, according to officials.