BEIJING: China expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition towards the United States (US) use of force to attack China’s civilian unmanned airship, Xinhua quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying in a statement on Sunday.

The Chinese side has, after verification, repeatedly informed the US side of the civilian nature of the airship and conveyed that its entry into the US due to force majeure was totally unexpected, the statement said, noting the Chinese side has clearly asked the US side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Friday when answering a relevant query that the civilian airship is used for research, mainly meteorological purposes.

Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.

According to the statement, the spokesperson of the US Department of Defence also noted the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.

Under such circumstances, the US use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice, said the statement.

China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the company concerned, and reserve the right to make further responses if necessary, it added.

According to media reports, the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday which had been spotted above US airspace off the coast of South Carolina.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the decision was made at the direction of US President Joe Biden.

The sighting had stirred diplomatic tension, with Washington saying China violated its sovereignty while Beijing regressed the unintended entry by a civilian airship used for research. - Bernama