Relations with China 'tense' as U.S. studies balloon

STORY: The world on Tuesday got a closer look at the Chinese spy balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina by a U.S. fighter jet over the weekend.

Images released by the U.S. Navy showed naval officers recovering the deflated remnants of the balloon, which officials said was 200 feet tall with a payload underneath that weighed a couple thousand pounds.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry said the balloon “belongs to China” and is “not American."

At the same time, China has accused the United States of overreacting and has claimed what the U.S. shot down was a weather balloon that had blown off course.

"It seems rather laden with contradiction."

Drew Thompson, an analyst and visiting senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore, said it's more serious than that.

"This is a very significant incident. It was the grossest violation of sovereignty by China of another country that I'm aware of in decades. This was not just a subtle miscalculation or an accident, as the Chinese Foreign Ministry has claimed. This was the deployment of an aircraft in another country’s sovereign airspace, without permission. If this same incident were to happen in China, they would be apoplectic over it.”

The incident has strained already rocky relations between the two countries.


That's how Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer described U.S. relations with China on Tuesday, as tense, and said President Joe Biden was considering next steps.

"I know the administration is looking at other actions that can be taken."

The balloon has widened a rift here at home, too, with Republican lawmakers criticizing the Democratic president's response to the situation, including House Majority leader Steve Scalise.

"If you really gave an order to shoot down a spy plane from China on Wednesday and it didn't happen till Saturday, have you fired every single person that refused to obey the commander-in-chief's order? Those are the things that happened under Joe Biden."

Pentagon officials said the risks were too great to shoot it down over land.

Schumer, a Democrat from New York, called Republicans' criticism highly political.

"Republicans, even before they saw and knew what was happening, started - some of them, not all - lambasting the president. Those criticisms were at best premature and in all probability, highly political."

Meanwhile, Biden has tried to downplay any drastic effect the balloon incident would have on U.S.-China relations, saying on Monday that relations have not been weakened.