Balloon incident further weakens relationship between US, China: Ex-Pentagon chief

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper (AP file photo)

Former Pentagon chief Mark Esper has said that the alleged Chinese “spy” balloon has further weakened ties between the United States and China. 

“I think it certainly undermines US-China relations and damages trust between our two countries, between our leadership,” Esper told CNN on Tuesday.

A US fighter aircraft on Saturday shot down the so-called surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina, invoking strong criticism from Beijing. President Joe Biden congratulated US fighter pilots for taking down the balloon.

Beijing on Sunday blasted the Pentagon's decision to shoot down the balloon spotted flying over North America, accusing the United States of "clearly overreacting and seriously violating international practice".

"China expresses strong dissatisfaction and protests against the use of force by the United States to attack the unmanned civilian airship," the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that it would "reserve the right to make further necessary responses".

The Chinese foreign ministry said it had "clearly requested that the United States properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner".

Beijing said the United States "insisted on using force, clearly overreacting and seriously violating international practice".

"China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant enterprises and reserve the right to make further necessary responses," the ministry said in its statement.

The balloon incident led US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone his visit to Beijing last week.

Esper, who served as the Defense Secretary under US President Donald Trump, questioned why they did not detect Chinese balloons in the United States during the Trump administration. He then suggested that previous balloons may have become “lost in the noise.”

An American official claimed over the weekend that Chinese balloons traveled over the United States three times during the Trump administration. However, Trump denied the assertion, and called it “disinformation.”

“I would be ordering an inquiry as to what happened and why,” he said. “And I’m sure Congress is going to do the same to find out what happened, how did it happen? When did we find out and what are we doing to fix the problem?”

Democrat lawmaker rips Biden over Chinese balloon

Meanwhile, Representative David Scott (D-Ga.) on Tuesday slammed the Biden administration’s decision to delay shooting down the balloon over the weekend.

Scott said during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Chinese economic competition that he was concerned about the “fast-growing possibility of a China-led world order,” which he said would include China’s military controlling key global trade route, The Hill reported. 

“And that’s why I was concerned, deeply concerned, about this balloon business and why the president allowed this balloon to go all over our country and not blow it down,” Scott said.

“I love the president, I support him, but this move not to blow down that balloon sends a powerful message to both our enemies and our friends,” he added later. “It’s all about data, it’s all about intelligence, it’s all about knowledge, and they got us on this one.”

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku