China says US shooting down balloon ‘seriously damaged’ relations

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A US decision to shoot down a Chinese balloon that Beijing claimed had veered off course has “seriously impacted and damaged” relations between the two countries, China’s foreign ministry said Monday.

The aircraft, which Washington said was a spy balloon, had spent several days flying over North America, leading the United States to call off a planned visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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Washington on Saturday said a fighter jet had shot it down off the coast of South Carolina, because of what it called Beijing’s “unacceptable violation” of American sovereignty.

Beijing protested the move, claiming the balloon was a civilian aircraft that was blown off course, and on Sunday lodged an official complaint with the US embassy in China.

“The United States’ actions have seriously impacted and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress in stabilizing Sino-US relations since the Bali meeting,” vice foreign minister Xie Feng said in the complaint, according to a foreign ministry statement.

He was referring to a summit between presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in November.

Beijing, the statement added, “is paying close attention to the development of the situation” and “reserves the right to make further necessary reactions.”

Pentagon officials on Friday described the airship as a “high-altitude surveillance balloon”, adding that Washington had taken steps to block it from collecting sensitive information.

A day after Pentagon officials said another balloon had been spotted somewhere over Latin America, air force officials in Colombia said an object with “characteristics similar to those of a balloon” had been detected Friday and “monitored until it left the national air space.”

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