BEIJING – China's ceremonial parliament has accused American lawmakers of trampling on the sovereignty of other nations after the U.S. passed a measure condemning a suspected Chinese spy balloon's intrusion into U.S. airspace.
The statement issued Thursday by the National People's Congress's Foreign Affairs Committee repeated Beijing’s insistence that the balloon was an unmanned civilian weather research airship, a claim the U.S. has dismissed citing its flight route and payload of surveillance equipment.
While China at first expressed regret over the Feb. 4 incident, it has toughened its rhetoric in a further sign of how badly relations between the sides have deteriorated in recent years.
On Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said it will take measures against U.S. entities somehow related to the downing of the balloon, without giving details.
The resolution earlier passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives “deliberately exaggerated the ‘China threat,'" the Foreign Relations Committee statement said.
That was “purely malicious hype and political manipulation," it said. “Some U.S. Congress politicians fanned the flames, fully exposing their sinister designs to oppose China and contain China."
“In fact, it is the United States that wantonly interferes in other countries’ internal affairs, violates their sovereignty, and conducts surveillance on other countries," it said.
A range of Chinese government departments have issued daily protests over how the U.S. handled the issue, accusing Washington of overreacting and violating “the spirit of international law." Beijing has offered no details on what company or government department was responsible for the giant balloon, the remnants of which are being sent to an FBI lab for analysis.
Along with Congress's passing of the resolution, the U.S. has sanctioned six Chinese entities it said are linked to Beijing’s aerospace programs. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also canceled a visit to Beijing, putting an abrupt freeze on what some had seen as momentum for a stabilization in relations that have plunged to their lowest in decades amid disputes over trade, human rights, Taiwan and China’s claim to the South China Sea.
The House resolution condemned China for a “brazen violation” of U.S. sovereignty and efforts to “deceive the international community through false claims about its intelligence collection campaigns."
U.S. officials have said China operates a fleet of such balloons, which are a relatively inexpensive and difficult-to-detect method of gathering intelligence. The U.S. government determined the balloon posed little risk to national security and allowed it to fly across the continent before bringing it down with a missile off the coast of South Carolina.