US overreaction to airship incident is political hype: Expert

By Zhang Liying
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 2, 2023
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The U.S. handling of the airship incident is political hype ultimately intended to suppress China's peaceful development, an expert on international law told

Huang Jin, president of the Chinese Society of International Law, said that despite China's statement after conducting verification, the U.S. side dramatized the incident to provoke confrontation and fuel its "China threat" narrative.

He also criticized the U.S.'s description of the airship as a "spy balloon" as lacking credibility and called for a joint investigation by both sides into the incident.

Previous media reports had revealed that a Chinese unmanned airship had been spotted in U.S. airspace around the beginning of last month.

On Feb. 3, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement that the airship is from China, noting that it is a civilian airship used for research purposes, mainly meteorological. 

Affected by westerly winds and with limited self-steering capabilities, the airship deviated far from its planned course, according to the spokesperson.

Despite calls from China for a rational and professional approach, the U.S. shot down the airship with a missile.

In response to a query about the ongoing analysis and investigation by the U.S. into the airship that was shot down, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a press briefing on Feb. 22 that China has explicitly told the U.S. side multiple times that the entry of the civilian airship was an entirely unintended, unexpected and isolated event caused by force majeure.

Huang said the use of force by the U.S. to attack the stray Chinese civilian unmanned airship violated international law, relevant conventions and customary international practices.

He stressed that states have an obligation to settle their disputes by peaceful means under international law and the United Nations Charter.

Huang further stated that the U.S.'s move to shoot down the airship by firing a missile from a fighter jet violated this basic principle and was an overreaction.

He said the U.S. abuse of force also goes against customary international practices prescribed in relevant conventions, including the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, of which both China and the U.S. are contracting states.

Huang explained that international practice dictates that if a civil airship of one country flies over the territory of another country accidentally, the latter could send warnings and escort the airship to ensure it is under control, but should avoid using force.

He called for both sides, especially the United States, to de-escalate the situation and resolve the incident within the framework of international law.

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