Situation with China ‘tense’, US looking at other actions after balloon shootdown

The US authorities recovering a high-altitude surveillance balloon after it was shot down, off the coast of South Carolina. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON - US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said relations with China were strained and the Biden administration is looking at other actions it can take after shooting down what it called a Chinese surveillance balloon over the weekend.

“Tense,” Mr Schumer said, when asked to describe the state of bilateral relations.

The appearance of the Chinese balloon over the United States last week caused a political uproar in Washington and prompted the top US diplomat, Mr Antony Blinken, to cancel a Sunday-Monday trip to Beijing that both countries had hoped would steady their rocky relations.

China said it was a weather balloon that had blown off course into US airspace and accused the US of overreacting.

“I know the administration is looking at other actions that can be taken,” Mr Schumer told reporters at the Capitol.

Speaking hours before fellow Democrat, President Joe Biden, was to deliver the annual State of the Union address to the US Congress, Mr Schumer castigated Republican lawmakers for criticising the President’s response to the balloon.

“China sent that surveillance balloon over. The Biden administration was calm, calculated and effective,” Mr Schumer said.

“This is one area where we don’t need politics. So we need Democrats and Republicans to come together. We need the country to come together to condemn China for what it did, and have a unified front in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party.”

The White House has downplayed any drastic effect the incident would have on US-China relations. Mr Biden himself said on Monday that relations were not weakened by the downing of the balloon.

“No. We made it clear to China what we’re going to do. They understand our position. We’re not going to back off.” REUTERS

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