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China Vows to ‘Take Countermeasures’ Against U.S. in Response to Balloon Downing

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Updated: | Originally published:

China warned that it will retaliate against the U.S. over violations of its sovereignty, potentially escalating the lingering balloon dispute just as top diplomats from both nations plan to attend a security conference in Germany.

At a briefing Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin repeated Beijing’s view that the Chinese aircraft downed by a U.S. jet off the South Carolina coast this month had inadvertently floated over the country after being blown off course. He criticized the Biden administration’s decision to take it out and later sanction Chinese companies, saying the moves would have consequences.

Read More: China and the U.S. Are at Odds Over a Balloon. Here’s Why Much of Asia Isn’t Blowing Up About It

“China is strongly opposed to this and will take countermeasures against relevant U.S. entities that have undermined our sovereignty and security to firmly safeguard our sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests,” Wang said.

Some of the 10 U.S. balloons that Beijing says traveled over China since May last year passed over Xinjiang and Tibet, Wang added. Those are two regions in China’s far west where the government is accused by the U.S. and other nations of human rights violations against minorities, charges Beijing denies.

Read More: China’s Residential Schools Separate a Million Tibetan Children From Their Families, U.N. Says

The retaliation warning appears to be a reaction to the U.S. adding Chinese firms to an export blacklist last week over what it argues are links to a military-backed global balloon espionage program. Wang didn’t explain how China could retaliate, but the threat is similar to ones that Beijing has made in the past against foreign entities that it says damage Chinese companies by complying with foreign sanctions.

In 2019 China’s Ministry of Commerce announced it was creating an “unreliable entity” list to punish firms after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Huawei Technologies Co., and in 2021 it announced new rules that allowed lawsuits in Chinese courts against companies that complied with overseas sanctions.

The ministry has never published the details of the list or announced that any company was added to it. There’s been no public use of the rules to punish foreign firms.

China and the U.S. had appeared to be trying to move on from the dispute. The U.S. said Tuesday that three other objects downed by American jets over the past week served commercial purposes and weren’t used for spying.

It remains to be seen if the latest back-and-forth will prevent a meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference this week. Blinken had canceled a planned trip to Beijing this month when the initial balloon controversy erupted.

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