China said on Monday that a decision by the United States to shoot down a balloon that had flown into U.S. airspace was a test of Washington's "sincerity in improving and stabilizing China-U.S. relations and its way of handling crises."
A U.S. fighter jet shot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon Saturday as it traveled over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina. The balloon's flight ended after it had traveled for several days across the continental United States.
Officials in the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden said the balloon was a surveillance aircraft and called its flight over America an "unacceptable violation of our sovereignty" by China. Officials said the administration took measures to prevent the balloon from gathering any information as it crossed the country.
China is denying those claims, insisting that it was a civilian scientific aircraft that accidentally drifted into U.S. airspace.
In a statement released Sunday, Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng lodged an official protest to the downing of the balloon, describing it as an overreaction and a "serious violation of international practice."
Xie vowed that China will "resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests" of the balloon's private operator.
The discovery of the balloon prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a much-anticipated visit to Beijing designed to improve relations between the two economic giants which have soured in recent years.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters Monday that Beijing hopes Washington "will work with China to properly handle our differences so as to avoid miscalculation or damage to our mutual trust."
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.