US military searches for leftover balloons as China calls for restraint
© Reuters. A jet flies next to a suspected Chinese spy balloon as it floats off the coast of Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. REUTERS/Randall Hill.
BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US military said on Sunday it was searching for the remnants of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon it shot down a day earlier, while Beijing on Thursday Two called on Washington not to escalate or take further action to damage its interests.
The hot air balloon play, which Beijing again reiterated was a civilian balloon that accidentally strayed into US airspace, further strained already strained relations and prompted Washington to cancel the visit. Beijing was planned by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
General Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command, said the US Navy was working to recover the balloon and its payload and the Defense Force Coast Guard is ensuring security for this operation.
A successful rollback is likely to help the United States better understand Chinese espionage capabilities, although US officials have downplayed the balloon’s impact on national security.
A US fighter jet shot down a hot air balloon in the Atlantic Ocean off South Carolina on Saturday, a response China described as a “clear overreaction”.
“China firmly opposes and strongly opposes this,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said in a speech to the US Embassy in Beijing posted on the ministry’s website on Monday morning.
“The Chinese government is closely monitoring the development of the situation,” he said.
The ballooning incident comes as the United States and China are looking to strengthen communication and begin to mend a relationship that has been severely strained in recent years due to tensions on several fronts, including U.S. efforts to block China’s access to key advanced technologies.
China warned of “serious consequences” and said it would use necessary measures to deal with “similar situations” without elaborating, although some analysts said it expected any response to be well thought out to avoid making bilateral relations worse.
Brokerage ING said in a note on Monday that the incident could exacerbate the “tech wars” and would have a negative short-term impact on the currency.
“Both sides are likely to impose additional export bans on technology in different industries. This is a new threat to supply chain disruptions, although the risk of logistical disruption posed by Covid restrictions are now gone,” the report said.
“This new risk is a longer-term risk rather than an imminent one,” ING said.
The Chinese yuan fell to as low as 6.8077 per dollar early Monday, hitting its weakest level in nearly a month.