The United States has said it does not plan to return to Beijing the wreckage of a Chinese spy balloon shot down by the Pentagon on Saturday, even as technical experts have completed an analysis of the onboard surveillance capabilities.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said there are no plans to return the wreckage to China, which has accused the US of violating “the spirit of international law” by downing the balloon. Beijing says the plane was being used for civilian meteorological research, which the US has denied.
When asked whether the US would return any part of the balloon retrieved by Navy divers by conducting a rescue operation off the coast of South Carolina, Kirby said: “I have no knowledge of plans to return it.”
In 2001, an American spy plane was forced to make an emergency landing at a Chinese military base on Hainan Island after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet in international airspace over the South China Sea. China returned the EP-3 aircraft, but only after examining the aircraft for months.
On Saturday, a person familiar with the US administration’s thinking on the balloon episode said China had not asked for its withdrawal at the time.
Kirby said the White House categorically denied Beijing’s claim that the US had violated international law, saying it was “unequivocally” wrong.
“Actually, that’s why we did [shot down the balloon] Kirby said, “about six miles off the coast inside our territorial airspace, so that we can comply with international law.” “Unlike the Chinese who did not follow international law by flying it in sovereign US airspace.”
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US would “exploit” any part of the balloon or payload that is salvaged to learn more about the system. He said the military had advised that it be shot down over water “to create a greater chance of effectively exploiting the wreckage than if shot down on land”.
The balloon episode has derailed the two countries’ efforts to establish “a floor” under troubled ties – something that US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping agreed upon when they met in Bali in November.
Kirby stressed on Monday that the US was committed to trying to stabilize US-China relations, which have reached their worst level since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1979.
Kirby said, “No one wants to see conflict here.” American airspace.
The US Navy was continuing the rescue operation on Monday, which began shortly after the balloon crashed into the Atlantic on Saturday afternoon.
General Glenn VanHerk, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command, said the balloon was about 200 feet tall and that the payload under the large orb – part of the system carrying surveillance equipment – was the size of a regional jet.
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