China suggested it wants the U.S. to return the spy balloon recently shot down over the Atlantic Ocean as efforts to recover its debris are ongoing.
On Tuesday, reporters asked Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning if China asked the U.S. to return the balloon’s debris.
“The airship does not belong to the U.S.,” Mao replied. “It belongs to China.”
China’s Foreign Ministry already criticized the U.S. for shooting down the balloon on Saturday, saying it was an overreaction and serious violation of international norms, state news agency Xinhua reported. The ministry reserved China’s right to make any necessary responses.
The spy balloon became a national fixation and fueled tensions between the superpowers during its nearly week-long flight over the U.S. It flew over Montana, home to some nuclear missile silos, and the Pentagon said its goal was to surveil strategic sites.
China has claimed that the balloon was a civilian weather research balloon blown far off course. The day before it was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet, Mao had urged “both sides” to “handle this matter together in a cool-headed and prudent manner.”
The first photos of the U.S. effort to recover the balloon from the ocean were released Tuesday.
Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck told reporters Monday that the balloon — which was 200 feet tall and carried an airliner-jet-sized payload weighing likely “in excess of a couple thousand pounds” — created a debris field of “more than 15 football fields by 15 football fields” off the coast of South Carolina.
A U.S. official said the spy balloon’s surveillance payload did not survive the fall from about 58,000 feet intact, ABC News reported. A portion was located on the ocean floor, they said, while another small portion was recovered from the surface.
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.