Officials revealed on Tuesday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attempted to call his Chinese counterpart on Saturday, but was rejected after the military shot down the Chinese spy balloon that had just traversed the entirety of the United States.
As reported by Fox News, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement that, although “lines between our militaries are particularly important in moments like this…the PRC has declined our request.” Ryder then added that “our commitment to open lines of communication will continue.”
China’s actions conflict with its rhetoric, with Chinese officials apologizing for the balloon’s entrance into U.S. airspace in a statement on February 3rd, saying that the “Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure.”
But after the balloon was shot down on Saturday over the Atlantic Ocean, China changed its tune and began placing the blame on the U.S. for what it considered an aggressive over-reaction to the balloon.
“The U.S. should have properly handled such incidents in a calm and professional manner not involving the use of force,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning on Tuesday. “Yet they decided to do otherwise, which is a clear overreaction. The airship does not belong to the U.S. It belongs to China.”
The balloon was 200 feet tall and weighed approximately 2,000 pounds, with a payload that was equivalent to the size of three buses. It had first been spotted over Montana and continued floating east, crossing the Midwest and the East Coast before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina. The Navy and Coast Guard have been working together to recover the debris in an effort to gather intelligence from the wreckage.