On Saturday, the United States used a missile to bring down a Chinese meteorological balloon with a big solar panel-powered structure attached to it after it had spent the last week traversing the country. The balloon’s downing was an explosive end to a play that had generated a diplomatic crisis between the world’s two largest superpowers.
Before the Biden administration announced its decision to fire down the balloon, China claimed it was a “civilian airship” used for weather research and that its arrival in US airspace was an “unintended entry.”
China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry was quick to express “strong disappointment and outrage over the use of force” by the US after the balloon was destroyed — and now China wants the wreckage back.
A senior Chinese ambassador stated that the US should return the debris from the balloon it shot down because it is the Asian nation’s property, placing the decision over the aircraft’s fate in the hands of Washington.
“If you pick up something on the street, you should return it to the owner if you know who the owner is,” said Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to France.
Lu even criticized the United States.
“If the Americans don’t want to return it, that’s their decision,” Lu said during the interview. “This demonstrates their dishonesty.”
During another press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning underlined, “The airship does not belong to the United States. It belongs to China.”
However, this is not China’s first. The country has left monitoring equipment in another country without permission before. As Bloomberg notes, America is not entirely innocent. Pentagon officials requested China to give back their spy plane after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet in 2001.
China’s response at the time was to demand $1 million to pay the expense of the crew’s housing and the jet’s return.