Beijing has called for the US to return debris from its alleged surveillance aircraft, which was shot down over the Atlantic US Navy service members recover debris on Sunday from a high-altitude Chinese balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina. © Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Thompson/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has requested that President Joe Biden’s administration return debris from the air balloon that the US military shot down off America’s east coast on Saturday, saying the aircraft “belongs to China.”

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning was asked whether Beijing had asked for the balloon debris to be returned. “The airship does not belong to the US,” she said. “It belongs to China.”

Ning’s comments came three days after a US fighter jet shot down the balloon – alleged by American officials to be a spying aircraft – off the coast of South Carolina. The Pentagon claimed to have detected the balloon on Wednesday. Biden faced fierce criticism for allowing the balloon to cross the continent, passing over a nuclear missile site and other sensitive military assets, before bringing it down.

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The balloon was a civilian meteorological research airship that entered US airspace inadvertently after being blown off course, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday. Ning said some US politicians and media outlets “hyped” the incident to “attack and smear China.” She declined to provide any more details about the airship on Tuesday.

“The Chinese side has given information about the unmanned airship on several occasions,” Ning said. “I don’t have anything to add at the moment.” She added that the US government failed to respond in a “calm and professional manner,” instead overreacting to an incident that posed no security threat and didn’t endanger any Americans.

US Senator Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, speculated that Chinese officials sent the balloon across North America to probe Washington’s response. “This was really more of a trial balloon by the Chinese,” Daines told Fox News on Monday. He added that Biden was “indecisive,” projecting weakness. “It was exactly what the Chinese wanted to see happen.” (RT)