A suspected Chinese surveillance spy balloon spotted on the US Airspace earlier last week has finally been shot down by the US military and the Chinese government has expressed its dissatisfaction over the issue.
The military strike has since then worsened relations between Beijing and Washington, D.C. The attack which took place on Saturday is being trailed by warnings of a "necessary response" from China after it defended that the "unmanned civilian airship" was merely a weather research balloon that only strayed into the US airspace "accidentally".
The US defense officials recounted the experience, stating that multiple fighters were used and an F-22 fighter jet shot down the balloon about six nautical miles off the coast of South Carolina at 2.39 Pm (19:39 GMT) using a single AIM-9X supersonic, heat-seeking, air-to-air missile.
In an address made by US President Joe Biden in Maryland, he explained to reporters how he had issued an immediate order to shoot it down but they had to wait until a safe method was eventually devised to protect civilians from any harm.
“We successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” President Biden said.
Flights were halted around the South Carolina coast under claims of an undisclosed " national security effort" before the military strike on Saturday. A footage broadcast on TV captured the moment a small explosion occurred before the balloon finally fell into the water.
Efforts are currently being made to recover the debris from the water as the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin referred to the military strike as a " deliberate and lawful action” that came in response to China’s “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”.
When China got wind of the situation, It expressed Its strong dissatisfaction through its foreign ministry that condemned the use of force to attack an "unmanned civilian airship", stating that it was " an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice" that has reserved them the right to make "further necessary responses".
The incident has now created a strain in the relationship China has hoped to foster with the US in a bid to revitalize its economy after the COVID-19 pandemic. In its defense, China insists on its claims of the balloon being a weather research airship and not a surveillance decoy.
President Joe Biden is likely to be under pressure and intense scrutiny from Republican opponents who are beginning to accuse him of trying to hide national security from the American people. Although, he has firmly emphasized since the news of the spy balloon surfaced how he gave immediate order to shoot it down and had only been advised against it by the Pentagon who thought it unsafe for the citizens at the time.
A US-based National Defense PPrprofessorvid DesRoches explained that a balloon can be used to gather higher resolution imagery better than a satellite because of its ability to hover over a target for a long time.
“You can get a lot of visual information from a satellite, but somewhere as far north as [the state of] Montana, a satellite only has a few seconds over the target whereas a balloon has more time. The second thing a balloon would be capable of doing would be gathering electronic signals, so it could intercept communications,” DesRoches said.
“If we do recover [the balloon] and it does prove to be surveillance stuff, I think there will be some public display of that, and this will be further embarrassment for the Chinese”, he said.
China seems to hold a different opinion as Chinese diplomat Wang Yi insists that China “has always strictly followed international law, we do not accept any groundless speculation and hype”. He advised that both parties need to communicate rightly to avoid any form of misjudgment
“Faced with unexpected situations, both parties need to keep calm, communicate promptly, avoid misjudgments, and manage differences”, he said.