The Defense Ministry accused the US of "an obvious overreaction." The Foreign Ministry added that the balloon was a civilian research vessel and had entered US airspace due to force majeure. China will "resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant companies."
US Disagrees with China's Claim
The US officials have countered China's claims that the balloon was civilian. A senior administration official called it a "PRC surveillance balloon" that was "seeking to monitor sensitive military sites." Another balloon with similar technical characteristics was also spotted over Central and South America. The official added that both balloons carried "surveillance equipment not usually associated with standard meteorological activities or civilian research."
No Threat from Balloon
Pentagon officials have said that the balloon posed no "military or physical" threat. The US decided to shoot down the balloon over the ocean to avoid falling debris harming a civilian. The US military will now focus on debris recovery efforts.
Change in China Meteorological Administration
Chinese state media announced that the head of China's weather service, Zhuang Guotai, was relieved of his duty. Some see this move as an attempt to support China's claim that the balloon was mainly for meteorological purposes.