BEIJING, February 7. /TASS/. The Chinese government will demand that the United States return the fragments of the weather balloon it downed over its territory last weekend, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
"This balloon does not belong to the United States, it belongs to the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government will continue to protect its legitimate rights and interests," she insisted. The Chinese diplomat reiterated that the balloon was meant exclusively for civilian purposes and that it posed no threat to US national security.
On February 2, Pentagon Spokesman Patrick Ryder reported that US authorities had detected a "surveillance balloon" over the continental US. The balloon was downed on February 4 in US air space off South Carolina. The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed regret that the abnormal situation led to the weather balloon flying into US air space and said that it was ready to maintain communication with US officials to resolve the conflict.