U.S. House votes 419-0 to condemn 'brazen' Chinese spy balloon

Contrails from jets circle a suspected Chinese spy balloon as it floats off the coast in Surfside Beach
Contrails from jets circle a suspected Chinese spy balloon as it floats off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. REUTERS/Randall Hill

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday unanimously backed a resolution condemning the incursion of a Chinese spy balloon into U.S. airspace last week as "a brazen violation of United States sovereignty."

The House voted 419-0 for the resolution, five days after the U.S. Air Force shot down the device over the Atlantic Ocean.

The resolution is non-binding, but is intended to convey that Republicans and President Joe Biden's fellow Democrats are united in condemning the decision to send the balloon over U.S. territory.

"Americans were rightfully deeply disturbed by this brazen violation of sovereignty by the Chinese Communist Party," Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and sponsor of the resolution, said during debate on the measure.

U.S. lawmakers have been outspoken in their criticism of the incident and demands for more information. On Thursday a Senate appropriations subcommittee called Defense Department officials to testify about the balloon, and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was questioned about it at a separate hearing on China.

Biden administration officials also held classified briefings on Thursday for members of the House and Senate.

China's foreign ministry has said it was a weather balloon that had blown off course and accused the United States of overreacting.

The resolution also denounces the Chinese Communist Party's "efforts to deceive the international community through false claims about its intelligence collection campaigns."

It adds that it should be U.S. policy to act quickly and decisively to prevent foreign aerial surveillance platforms from violating U.S. airspace and calls on the Biden administration to keep the House informed by providing comprehensive briefings on the incident.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Kylie MacLellan and Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Patricia Zengerle has reported from more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China. An award-winning Washington-based national security and foreign policy reporter who also has worked as an editor, Patricia has appeared on NPR, C-Span and other programs, spoken at the National Press Club and attended the Hoover Institution Media Roundtable. She is a recipient of the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence.