China claimed Monday without presenting any evidence that the U.S. flew its own high-altitude balloons over Chinese airspace, drawing a defiant denial from the White House.
The assertion from China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin sought to turn the tables on the U.S. after American forces shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast and took down three unidentified aircraft in the following days, ratcheting up tensions with Beijing.
“Since last year, U.S. high-altitude balloons have flown over Chinese airspace over ten times without authorization from China,” Mr. Wang said in a translated version of his remarks posted by the Chinese government. “The U.S. needs to reflect on its own behavior and change course rather than attacking others and stoking confrontation.”
The spokesman did not elaborate on where the purported balloons were found or their purpose.”
The White House vociferously pushed back on Beijing’s claims.
“We are not flying balloons over China. This is absolutely untrue,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC.
NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said balloon surveillance is a hallmark of Chinese operations.
“It is China that has a high-altitude surveillance balloon program for intelligence collection, that it has used to violate the sovereignty of the US and over 40 countries across 5 continents,” she tweeted Monday.
U.S. lawmakers are demanding more information about a series of suspicious incidents in North American airspace.
President Biden allowed the first balloon to travel from Montana to the Atlantic Ocean, saying the Pentagon took precautions and wanted to shoot it down over the ocean. U.S. officials are examining the balloon.
Then, military forces shot down objects over Alaska, the Yukon Territory and Lake Huron, working at times with the Canadian government.
Members of Congress want the administration to be forthcoming about what the objects are and whether China or another adversary is spying on the U.S. or testing its defenses.
China, meanwhile, characterized the first balloon as a weather aircraft that veered off-course.
Mr. Wang said he had no information about the additional objects and deflected attention back onto the U.S.
“The U.S.’s downing of the unmanned airship with advanced missiles is a trigger-happy overreaction. Many in the US have been asking: What good can such costly action possibly bring to the US and its taxpayers?” he said. “As a matter of fact, it is the US who is the No.1 surveillance country and has the largest spy network in the world.”