China says U.S. balloons flew over Xinjiang, Tibet, warns of countermeasures

Washington and Beijing are locked in a tussle over flying objects after the U.S. military this month shot down what it called a Chinese spy balloon

Updated - February 18, 2023 12:53 pm IST

Published - February 15, 2023 10:23 pm IST - BEIJING

In this image made from video, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin speaks during a media briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing. File.

In this image made from video, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin speaks during a media briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing. File. | Photo Credit: AP

China said on Wednesday that U.S. high altitude balloons flew over its Xinjiang and Tibet regions, and that it will take measures against U.S. entities that undermine Chinese sovereignty as a diplomatic dispute festered.

Washington and Beijing are locked in a tussle over flying objects after the U.S. military this month shot down what it called a Chinese spy balloon over the coast of South Carolina. Beijing says its balloon was a civilian research vessel mistakenly blown off course, and that Washington overreacted.

This week, China countered that U.S. balloons had flown over its airspace without permission more than 10 times on round-the-world flights since May 2022.

"Without the approval of relevant Chinese authorities, it has illegally flown at least 10 times over China's territorial airspace, including over Xinjiang, Tibet and other provinces," Wang told a regular daily briefing on Wednesday.

The White House has disputed China's allegations.

Washington has added six Chinese entities connected to Beijing's suspected surveillance balloon program to an export blacklist.

"The U.S. has abused force, overreacted, escalated the situation, and used this as a pretext to illegally sanction Chinese companies and institutions," Wang said.

"China is firmly opposed to this and will take countermeasures against relevant U.S. entities that undermine China's sovereignty and security in accordance with the law," Wang said, without specifying the measures.

The balloon dispute has delayed efforts by both sides to mend relations, although U.S. President Joe Biden has also said that he does not believe ties between the two countries were weakened by the incident.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who postponed a planned trip to Beijing over the balloon, is considering meeting China's top diplomat Wang Yi in Munich this week, sources have said.

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