China, U.S. spar over Congress resolution ‘condemning’ balloon

U.S. Congress resolution was passed unanimously with 419 votes in favour and none against, underlining rare bipartisan unity.

Updated - February 10, 2023 09:07 pm IST

Published - February 10, 2023 08:34 pm IST - Beijing

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning. File

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning. File | Photo Credit: AP

The United States House of Representatives passing a resolution condemning China’s surveillance balloon brought a sharp response from Beijing on February 10, 2023, with the world’s two biggest powers continuing to spar over the latest diplomatic row in their relations.

“The U.S. Congress’s resolution is purely about scoring political points and dramatising the whole thing. China deplores it and firmly opposes it,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in Beijing. “The Chinese side has repeatedly shared information and stated its position on the unintended entry of the unmanned Chinese civilian airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure.”

The U.S. Congress resolution was passed unanimously with 419 votes in favour and none against, underlining rare bipartisan unity. It condemned China for “brazen violation of United States sovereignty”.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, said on Thursday the surveillance balloon from China was fitted with antennae, and capable of collecting data. Beijing has continued to insist the balloon was “civilian” and used for meteorological purposes.

While the Congress resolution did reflect some unity as far as China is concerned despite other political divisions, it also called on the Biden administration to share more information on the balloon incident.

President Biden has come under fire from Republicans for not shooting down the balloon shortly after its detection over Alaska on January 28 and instead waiting for it to leave land. The U.S. military finally shot it down on February 5 while it was in U.S. airspace in waters off the east coast, after the balloon drifted across the continental U.S. for a week. Administration officials had previously expressed concern on damage from falling debris if the balloon was brought down over land.

The balloon incident led to the Biden administration cancelling this week’s scheduled visit to China by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the first such high-level visit since 2018.

While Washington saw the surveillance balloon, appearing on the eve of the visit, as a grave provocation, Beijing has claimed the balloon drifted off course, and was used for meteorology .U.S. officials have since said Beijing had deployed a fleet of surveillance balloons, some of which had been detected over the Andaman Islands in India last year and over Japan in 2020 and 2021.

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