The People’s Republic of China is seeking the return of its surveillance aircraft that was shot down over the mainland United States on Saturday. The incident has commanded the attention of U.S. politicians and dominated the news cycles, leading to questions being raised about the purpose of the spy balloon and its presence in North American and South American airspace.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was asked about the matter during a press conference on Tuesday, but she declined to provide any further information, stating, “The Chinese side has given information about the unmanned airship on several occasions. I don’t have anything to add at the moment.”
The Pentagon claimed to have acted immediately to protect sensitive information from the spy platform, but geopolitical experts believe it is unlikely that these efforts were successful. The balloon was reported to have transferred surveillance data to China as it flew over several military bases.
When asked if China has requested the debris from the destroyed aircraft to be returned, Mao replied, “The airship does not belong to the U.S. It belongs to China.” Mao also reiterated the Chinese Communist Party’s claim that the balloon was of civilian nature and criticized the U.S. government for not handling the situation in a “calm and professional manner.” She stated, “The unmanned Chinese airship is of civilian nature. Its unintended entry into U.S. airspace is entirely unexpected and caused by force majeure. It didn’t pose any threat to any person or to the national security of the U.S. The U.S. should have properly handled such incidents in a calm and professional manner not involving the use of force, yet they decided to do otherwise, which is a clear overreaction.”
The Pentagon reported that three similar spy balloons from China flew over the U.S. during the Trump administration, a claim that is disputed by former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. However, a senior administration official told Fox News that the existence of the Chinese spy balloons over U.S. territory during the Trump administration was not discovered until the Biden administration took over.