Beijing slammed Washington’s decision to shoot down a Chinese balloon , saying it was an overreaction and China reserved the right to take “further responses that are necessary”. “China strongly disapproves of and protests against the US attack on a civilian unmanned airship by force,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Sunday. It added that Beijing had notified the US side “repeatedly” that the airship was only for civilian purposes and had entered the US accidentally. The ministry also noted comments from a US Defence Department spokesman that the balloon was no military threat to people on the ground. “The US’ use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice,” it said, adding that China would “resolutely” defend the rights of the related Chinese companies. China’s military echoed the sentiment on Sunday, with defence ministry spokesman Tan Kefei saying the country reserved the right to “necessary means when faced with similar situations”. The strongly worded statements came after the US military shot down the airship on Saturday. The Pentagon claimed the balloon was surveilling strategic sites in the country, ending an episode that prompted US President Joe Biden’s administration to postpone a visit to Beijing by his top diplomat. On Biden’s orders, and in coordination with authorities in Canada, the military waited until the balloon was over US territorial waters off the coast of South Carolina to ensure that the apparatus it was carrying would not threaten people on the ground, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said soon after the president told reporters asking about the balloon that “we’re going to take care of it”. “On Wednesday when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot [the balloon] down on Wednesday as soon as possible,” Biden said. “They decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water. They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators that did it.” Saturday’s operation included efforts to recover debris from the balloon, estimated to be about the size of three school buses, and which reportedly had been at an altitude of about 60,000 feet. The Federal Aviation Administration and US Coast Guard cleared the airspace and water below the balloon as it moved over the Atlantic. The Pentagon determined that the apparatus “was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States”, Austin said, calling the balloon’s entry into US airspace an “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”. “This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government,” Austin said. “We thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through [the North American Aerospace Defence Command] as it transited North America.” NORAD is a joint defence body of the US and Canada, headquartered in Colorado. Blinken to reschedule China trip once balloon turbulence dies down: analysts Officials timed their manoeuvres so they could recover as much of the balloon’s debris as possible. Television footage of the military operation showed a small explosion, followed by the deflated balloon plummeting. US military jets were then seen flying in the area and ships were deployed for debris recovery. The balloon was spotted on Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the coast, Associated Press reported. The FAA temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coastline, as well as airports in the region. The FAA diverted air traffic from the area and warned of delays as a result of the flight restrictions. The public disclosure of the balloon this week prompted the cancellation of a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing for talks aimed at reducing US-China tensions. Blinken was expected to be the first US secretary of state to visit China since 2018 as part of an agreement between Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to boost high-level communication. The Chinese government on Saturday sought to play down the cancellation by saying that Beijing and Washington had not announced any visit by the US official and that “the US announcements are their own matter and we respect that”. It remains to be seen how much the differing claims about the balloon will be an obstacle to rescheduling Blinken’s trip. Austin’s characterisation of the balloon as a surveillance tool conflicts with Beijing’s claim that the balloon was a weather research “airship” that had been blown off course. Blinken said on Friday that he had told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call earlier that day that sending the balloon over the US was “an irresponsible act and that [China’s] decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have”. The balloon was spotted over Montana, home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, and news of the sighting started making headlines on Thursday. The Pentagon also cited reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement on Friday.