Thursday, March 23, 2023

PRC Declines to Take Defense Secretary Austin’s Call 

Washington, DC – DOD submitted a request for a secure call between Secretary Austin and PRC Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe on February 4, after the US shot the PRC surveillance balloon. However, PRC declined the request, said Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder. 

“We believe in the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and the PRC in order to responsibly manage the relationship. Lines between our militaries are particularly important in moments like this. Unfortunately, the PRC has declined our request. Our commitment to open lines of communication will continue,” said Ryder.

An F-22 Raptor fighter from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon on Saturday, February 4. “The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above US territorial waters,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a written statement.

President Joe Biden had approved the action on Wednesday, but it was postponed until the balloon was over water off the coast of South Carolina to ensure the safety of people on the ground. 

The US took the action in coordination and with the support of the Canadian government. “We thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through [North American Aerospace Defense Command] as it transited North America,” Austin said. “Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” said Austin. 

US officials first detected the balloon and its payload on January 28 when it entered American airspace near the Aleutian Islands. The balloon flew over Alaska and Canada and re-entered US airspace over Idaho. “President Biden asked the military to present options, and on Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the Chinese surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to us civilians under the balloon’s path,” said a senior defense official briefing reporters on background. “Military commanders determined that there was undue risk of debris causing harm to civilians while the balloon was overland.” 

Before the balloon was shot down, US officials acted to safeguard against the balloon’s collection of sensitive information. The senior defense official said the recovery of the balloon would enable US analysts to examine sensitive Chinese equipment. “I would also note that while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC surveillance balloon’s collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of US territory was of intelligence value to us,” the official said. “I can’t go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable.” 

Briefing reporters yesterday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby noted Nothing’s changed about the President’s view that the bilateral relationship with China is a very important one, “likely one of the most consequential in the world today, and he continues to view this as a strategic competition. That we don’t see conflict with China. Nothing’s changed about that. Now, there’s no question that relations between the US and China, even before this incident, were tense.” Responding to a question from a journalist, Kirby said he was unaware of any intention or plans to return the debris from the balloon to China.


Author profile
Poonam Sharma

Poonam is a multi-media journalist, and Founder and Editor of Global Strat View. She was the Managing Editor of India America Today (IAT) for seven years, and launched its print edition in 2019 with IAT's Founder and Editor, the late Tejinder Singh.

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