Trump says China respects him ‘too much’ to fly spy balloons during his presidency

Donald Trump said China had “too much respect” for him to fly spy balloons into US airspace, in a push back against the Pentagon’s claims that such incidents happened at least thrice during his presidency.

Writing on Truth Social, the former president called the claims “fake information” while slamming the Joe Biden administration as a “disgrace”.

China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for this to have happened, and it NEVER did. JUST FAKE DISINFORMATION!” Mr Trump posted on his social media platform.

He compared the incident to the US military’s evacuation from Afghanistan last year and said: “The Chinese balloon situation is a disgrace, just like the Afghanistan horror show, and everything else surrounding the grossly incompetent Biden administration.”

“They are only good at cheating in elections, and disinformation,” he added, referring to his unsubstantiated claims of fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

In a statement released by the Pentagon on Saturday, a senior administration official said Chinese balloons had entered US airspace on three different occasions during the Trump administration, though briefly.

The official said balloon transits during his tenure only became known after Mr Trump left office.

A large balloon drifts above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, Saturday (Chad Fish)
A large balloon drifts above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, Saturday (Chad Fish)

Washington’s missile struck down the suspected spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, leading to a diplomatic row and a further strain in ties between China and the US.

President Biden said he “ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible”, a week after the balloon first entered US airspace near Alaska.

He added that military leaders chose to wait until the balloon was above water as it was “the safest place to do it”.

“They successfully took it down and I want to complement our aviators who did it,” Mr Biden said after getting off Air Force One on his way to Camp David.

US Navy divers are working to recover the wreckage of the balloon, including its payload, in what could provide answers to China’s alleged spying capabilities.

China has denied it was a spy airship, claiming it to be a weather ship that was blown astray.

In a statement, the Chinese government issued “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US’s use of force to attack civilian unmanned aircraft”.

Stepping up the country’s condemnation of the US on Monday, Chinese vice-minister of foreign affairs Xie Feng accused Washington of “indiscriminate use of military force” against a “civilian unmanned airship”.

“What the US has done has dealt a serious blow and damaged the efforts and advances in stabilising China-US relations since the Bali meeting,” he added, referring to Mr Biden’s summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping in November last year on the backdrop of the G20 summit.

The minister lodged a formal protest with the US embassy in Beijing.

The discovery of the suspected spy balloon also led to Washington calling off US secretary of state Antony Blinken’s weekend trip to China.