China accuses U.S. of operating spy balloons over China more than 10 times in past year

February 14, 2023
Ben Marquis

It was more than a week ago that the U.S. military shot down a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina after it had been allowed to drift for several days across much of the continental U.S.

A spokesman for the Chinese communist regime on Monday accused the U.S. of an "overreaction" with the shootdown of the balloon and further asserted that the U.S. had operated more than 10 similar spy balloons over China within the past year, the Associated Press reported.

That accusation was swiftly denied and rejected as "false" by a spokesperson for President Joe Biden's National Security Council, however.

China claims U.S. the "No.1 surveillance country"

During a press briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked about the shootdown last week of the Chinese surveillance balloon by the U.S. as well as the subsequent shootdowns of three additional unidentified "objects" over U.S. and Canadian airspace over the weekend.

"We have made it clear time and again that the entry of the Chinese civilian unmanned airship into US airspace was a purely unintended, unexpected, and isolated event caused by force majeure," or natural forces beyond their control, Wenbin said.

"As to the 'unidentified objects' you asked about, I do not have anything on that. We do need to point out, however, that the U.S.’s downing of the unmanned airship with advanced missiles is a trigger-happy overreaction," he continued. "Many in the US have been asking: 'what good can such costly action possibly bring to the US and its taxpayers?'"

Wenbin then proceeded to accuse the U.S. of being "the No.1 surveillance country" with the "largest spy network in the world," and rattled off several different allegations of U.S. surveillance activities against both allied and rival nations.

Pressed on whether there was any Chinese connection to the unidentified objects, the spokesman said, "As I just said, I do not have anything on that. We believe that no irresponsible comments should be made when there is no clear evidence. And we are absolutely opposed to made-up stories and smears against China."

"The US needs to reflect on its own behavior"

Later during that briefing, Wenbin was asked another question about the Chinese balloon that had been shot down by the U.S. but the spokesman reiterated his accusation that "the U.S. the absolute No.1 country in terms of spying and surveillance."

"The U.S. military vessels and aircraft conduct frequent close-in reconnaissance on China, including 657 sorties last year and 64 sorties in January this year in the South China Sea alone, which seriously undermines China’s national security and regional peace and stability," he said. "U.S. balloons have often entered other countries’ airspace illegally."

"Since last year, U.S. high-altitude balloons have flown over Chinese airspace over ten times without authorization from China. The U.S. needs to reflect on its own behavior and change course rather than attacking others and stoking confrontation," Wenbin added.

Biden admin says China's claims are "false"

What Wenbin may have been referencing, if he wasn't outright lying, could be U.S. reconnaissance and surveillance operations in and around the disputed airspace and waters near Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and much of the South China Sea that China claims as its own sovereign territory but which actually belong to other nations or are internationally open, according to Reuters.

As for the U.S. response to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman's accusations, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement, "Any claim that the U.S. government operates surveillance balloons over the PRC (People's Republic of China) is false."

"It is China that has a high-altitude surveillance balloon program for intelligence collection, connected to the People’s Liberation Army, that it has used to violate the sovereignty of the United States and over 40 countries across five continents," she added.

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