The Chinese spy balloon may be down, but the diplomatic temperature continued to rise on Sunday as officials in Beijing criticized the US decision to shoot it out of the sky.

Describing it as «a clear overreaction,» Tan Kefei, a spokesman for China’s Defense Ministry, said in a statement on Sunday that his country reserved «the right to use any means necessary to deal with similar situations.» In a similarly worded statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said it was «a serious violation of customary international practice.»

Both statements described the balloon as an «unmanned civil airship,» and China had previously said the orb was used for research and «meteorological purposes.»

The remarks came after a US F-22 Raptor shot down what the Pentagon called a «high-altitude surveillance balloon» with a single missile off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday afternoon. The US military will now focus on salvaging parts of the ship from a debris field that stretches for about 7 nautical miles.

First seen over Montana, which is home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields, the massive white orb, which is about the size of three buses schoolchildren, headed southeast over Kansas and Missouri at about 60,000 to 65,000 feet

Shortly after the attack, President Joe Biden told reporters that he had given the order to shoot it down after being briefed on it on Wednesday, but the Pentagon «decided the best time to do it was when it was over the water.» .

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bali, Indonesia on July 9, 2022.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Bali, Indonesia, in July.Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AFP – File Getty Images

While describing Chinese suggestions for further action as «sinister,» David Sacks, a researcher on US-China diplomacy at the nonpartisan think tank Council on Foreign Relations, said he doubted it would have done much to alter relations between the two. two countries.

“They will issue a statement with a bit of swagger, but I don’t think China will try to respond in any way,” he said, adding that escalating the issue with the US would be of little benefit to China. .

Beijing would not have wanted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone his visit to China, which was scheduled to begin on Monday, Sacks said.

Blinken said on Friday that he had told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the United States was «an irresponsible act» that was «prejudicial to the substantive discussions we were prepared to have.» His visit to China would have been the first by a US secretary of state since 2018.

While some on Chinese social media mocked the US decision to shoot down the balloon, others expressed anger. Some of the more aggressive media outlets criticized the move, with the state-run Global Times newspaper calling it «an obvious overreaction.»

Several commentators also questioned the decision, while Jin Canrong, a specialist in Sino-US relations at Renmin University of China in Beijing, questioned the decision to postpone Blinken’s visit.

In a post on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, he said there had been opposition to the trip within the US, particularly from Republican lawmakers.

«It must be said that Blinken’s visit to China itself is not a bad thing, but the atmosphere is not good,» he said, adding that the US between the two countries «to force the Chinese side to give in.»

«This doesn’t work. The Chinese side has long since stopped buying this,» he added.

Rescheduling the trip could prove problematic for the Biden administration «until China provides a more convincing and comprehensive explanation of these latest spying allegations,» Craig Singleton, senior China fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank Washington, DC, experts and lobbying organization, said Saturday before the balloon was shot down.

«Overall, expectations were low that Blinken’s trip would result in diplomatic renditions, and at this point, a meaningful reset between the two superpowers seems almost off the table,» he said.