The Chinese government has called the US "excessive" and threatened action after its so-called spy balloon was shot down, prompting World War Three fears.
The balloon, which China claimed was a "civilian airship", was seen crossing over American skies earlier this week and was destroyed after officials in the States claimed the device was being used to spy on their country.
However, China has retaliated, claiming that it "retains the right to respond further" to the US shooting down their property – prompting fears that already tense relations between the two countries could escalate.
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“In these circumstances, for the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a public statement.
“China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further.”
On social media, some people declared they feared World War Three could be on the horizon after the international spat.
"Years from now, we’re gonna rewatch this cold open and either think, wait, what was this whole Chinese spy balloon thing again? or horrified that this was how we welcomed World War Three," one Twitter user wrote.
Another chimed in: "World War Three is about to happen with USA shooting down the Chinese spy balloon."
A pair of US Air Force fighter jets took out the balloon, which was spotted off the coast of North Carolina on Saturday afternoon (February 4).
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The huge white aircraft then deflated and fell into the ocean.
By this time it had been flying over America for eight days and travelled a distance of more than 4,000 miles.
President Biden said the Pentagon had been aware of the balloon since it first entered US airspace but kept the knowledge private in a bid to preserve already volatile Chinese-American relations.
Meanwhile, China's officials including president Xi Jinping have maintained that the balloon's entry into American airspace was an accident, claiming on Friday (February 3) that the aircraft was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” that had “deviated far from its planned course," despite claims by American officials.
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