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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

"The US needs to reflect on its own behavior and change course" -- Wang Wenbin


Wang Wenbin at the February 13 daily press conference -- image via the Foreign Ministry of the PRC


As the new Cold War style escalation of rhetoric from the US government towards the People's Republic of China continues it is important to get the perspectives seldom shared in the western mainstream media.


At his regular press conference today (February 13) Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded forcefully to questions from western/US media outlets about the ongoing "balloon crisis". He talked about US violations of the airspace and territory of other countries as well as US sanctions on Syria.


Here we share the questions and his responses in full.


NBC: The United States has now shot down four flying objects in US and Canadian airspace, one of which was a balloon claimed by China. Can you confirm that any or all of the three other objects also belong to China or is this just a coincidence? 


Wang Wenbin: We have made it clear time and again that the entry of the Chinese civilian unmanned airship into US airspace was a purely unintended, unexpected and isolated event caused by force majeure. As to the “unidentified objects” you asked about, I do not have anything on that. We do need to point out, however, that the US’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?  


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.


The US National Security Agency spied on calls and chat messages to and from the phones of leaders of Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and other European countries. The US has been operating a highly secretive signals intelligence collection program through almost a hundred US embassies and consulates worldwide. Anzer, a cybersecurity information platform, revealed last year that the NSA stole more than 97 billion pieces of global internet data and 124 billion phone records in 30 days, compromising the privacy of citizens across the world. Namibia recently found in its waters a US saildrone used to gather data under water, and local media generally believe it to be an American spy drone. The US knows how many surveillance balloons it has sent into the skies in the world. It’s quite clear to the global community which country is the No.1 spy empire in the world. 


NBC: Does China deny that any or all of the three objects that have been shot down in recent days belong to China, or is it just a coincidence? 


Wang Wenbin: As I just said, I do not have anything on that. We believe that no irresponsible comments should be made when there is no clear evidence. And we are absolutely opposed to made-up stories and smears against China.


Reuters: Does last week’s balloon belong to a Chinese company? I’m talking about the one that was shot down initially that then fell all over the sea close to the USA.


Wang Wenbin: We have made it clear several times that the unintended entry of China’s civilian unmanned airship into the US airspace is an entirely unexpected, isolated event caused by force majeure. The US downing of the airship is an abuse of the use of force and overreaction. We are firmly opposed to it.


AFP: I have another question regarding China’s balloon shot down by the US ten days ago. The foreign ministry said it was for civilian use. Can you tell us which entity it belongs to?


Wang Wenbin: We’ve stated repeatedly our position on the unmanned airship’s unintended entry into US airspace. But let me share with you some facts. Over the years, the US has been engaged in massive, non-discriminate wiretapping and secret theft operations globally, including against its allies, by abusing its tech advantage. These operations violate the sovereignty and interests of countries around the world, the international law and basic norms governing international relations, which makes the US the absolute No.1 country in terms of spying and surveillance. 


The US military vessels and aircraft conduct frequent close-in reconnaissance on China, including 657 sorties last year and 64 sorties in January this year in the South China Sea alone, which seriously undermines China’s national security and regional peace and stability. US balloons have often entered other countries’ airspace illegally. Since last year, US high-altitude balloons have flown over Chinese airspace over ten times without authorization from China. The US needs to reflect on its own behavior and change course rather than attacking others and stoking confrontation.


Bloomberg: Just on your comments earlier. I wonder if I could ask you just to elaborate a little bit more slowly about the numbers that you mentioned about US balloons flying over China. Did you say more than ten? And if so, can you be a little bit more precise? Was it ten or more than ten? And if so, what the number is? And also can you clarify the period? Did you mean in 2023 so far? Or was it in the last 12 months? 


Wang Wenbin: There is a great deal of interest in this matter. We would like to reiterate that it is the US who has been abusing its technological strength and engaged in massive, indiscriminate wiretapping and secret theft globally, including on its allies, and it is the US who has been frequently sending military vessels and aircraft for close-in reconnaissance on China in violation of our sovereignty.


It’s not uncommon for US balloons to illegally enter other countries’ airspace. Since the beginning of last year, US high-altitude balloons have flown into China’s airspace more than ten times without Chinese authorization. The US needs to change course and reflect on itself rather than smear and accuse China.


Sky News: I have a question about the debris that the Americans have collected from the first balloon that was shot down on February 4. The Americans say they can now confidently state that they believe it was fitted with surveillance capabilities. And China has made very clear it rejects that accusation. But can I ask why you think the Americans have come to this assessment? Do you think they have simply misinterpreted what they gathered? Or do you believe that they’re just making it up? 


Wang Wenbin: Perhaps you should ask the US. One fact is clear: the US Department of Defense stated itself that the balloon did not pose a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Plus US lawmakers have said that this incident does not pose a threat to the US. So you really need to ask the US why it still decided to fire advanced missiles at it and what else can it be described as other than an overreaction.


Dragon TV: Recently the US government has temporarily eased sanctions on Syria, which only authorizes for 180 days all transactions related to earthquake relief that would be otherwise prohibited. What’s your comment on this?


Wang Wenbin: The US government should put an immediate end to its unilateral sanctions on Syria, rather than stage a political stunt with this temporary easing of sanctions. 


The US’s long-running military interventions and unilateral sanctions on Syria have severely aggravated the economic and livelihood woes in Syria and greatly undercut the Syrian government’s resilience to disasters. The US sanctions have badly hampered the rescue efforts within the 72-hour “golden window” for rescue after the earthquake hit Syria, which made the situation on the ground even worse. As those in Syria have noted, it’s natural that the US politicizes the situation, for whom there is no humanitarianism, neither now nor in the past.


We urge the US government to put aside its geopolitical calculations, immediately lift its unilateral sanctions on Syria and stop creating humanitarian disasters. 


The Wall Street Journal: I just have a question about the Commerce Department’s decision to blacklist six Chinese companies in relation to the alleged balloon surveillance program. What is China’s comment on this, first of all? And what kinds of reciprocal measures might we expect from China in relation to this? 


Wang Wenbin: China’s always firmly opposed to the US’s illegal unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction against Chinese institutions, companies and individuals.


The unintended entry of China’s civilian unmanned airship into the US airspace is an entirely unexpected, isolated event caused by force majeure, and the Chinese side has time and again explained this to the US side, yet the US overreacted by abusing the use of force and escalating the situation, which is against the spirit of international law and customary practice. The US has also been hyping up the situation and pushing the envelope by using it as an excuse to impose illegal sanctions over Chinese companies and institutions. China strongly disapproves of and firmly opposes this.


We will do what is necessary to defend the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies and institutions.

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