Chinese officials demand spy balloon debris be returned

"The airship does not belong to the US. It belongs to China,"

Chinese officials are calling on the US to return their surveillance balloon that was shot down and recovered off the coast of South Carolina over the weekend, arguing that China has seen American "spy balloons" as well.

In a Monday interview on LCI, China's ambassador to France Lu Shaye said, "If a person picks up something on the street and knows who the owner is, he should return it to the owner."

During the interview on the French channel, Shaye said that Americans are "exaggerating" the balloon issue, and doubled down on claims from other Chinese officials that the flying object was a weather device, not for spying.

On Tuesday, the Department of Defense released photos of the US military's recovery of the balloon, and reported that it was 200 feet tall and weighed thousands of pounds.

In a Monday call with reporters, Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck revealed that the device was potentially carrying explosives to self-detonate, but "can't confirm."

Shaye went on, calling the US government "dishonest" in its dealings with his country for its apparent refusal to return the recovered balloon, and said that the Americans have sent spy balloons to them.  

"[These balloons] are very common," he said, adding that "it is not uncommon to see American spy balloons, or balloons used for other purposes."

According to Shaye, Chinese officials have "played it low-key, without hype" when allegedly they spotted American balloons in their air space, but did not specify if his country had shot those devices down.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning echoed Shaye's statements from a press briefing in which she also called for the US to return the balloon's remains.

"The airship does not belong to the US. It belongs to China," Ning said, reported Fox News.

She also backed up Shaye's claims that the "use of force" by Americans was a "clear overreaction."

"The unmanned Chinese airship is of civilian nature. Its unintended entry [into] US airspace is entirely unexpected and caused by force majeure," she said, reiterating comments made by the Chinese government. "It didn't pose any threat to any person or to the national security of the US. The US should have properly handled such incidents in a calm and professional manner not involving the use of force, yet they decided to do otherwise, which is a clear overreaction."

The Foreign Ministry official's comments came just a day after she confirmed that China also owned the second surveillance balloon that had been seen over Latin America, of which the Pentagon made the public aware on Saturday.

According to Mao, the other balloon was also a weather research device that simply "strayed from its planned route."

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