‘China is the existential threat in the 21st century,’ says former US national security adviser

Former US national security adviser John Bolton has described China as “the existential threat in the 21st century”, after a suspected spy balloon was shot down over North American airspace earlier this month.

He told Sky News: “This balloon should be a wake up call for people in the US, Europe and elsewhere who don’t think China is a threat in the 21st century. In my view, China is the existential threat in the 21st century.

“To be sure this is a serious matter and it’s indicative of the extraordinarily widespread nature of Chinese surveillance efforts against the US and West as a whole.”

Mr Bolton also criticised the Biden administration’s handling of the situation and said the balloon should have been shot down earlier.

The US shot down the alleged Chinese spy balloon on 4 February following days of intrigue over the mysterious white aircraft.

US Navy sailors retrieve the alleged spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. Pic: AP

Since then, a further three unidentified objects have been shot down over North American airspace as relations remain strained between Washington and Beijing.

A US defence official said the object was a surveillance balloon that China intended to use on sensitive military sites, but Chinese officials claim it was a weather research device that blew off course.

Read more:
What are spy balloons?
Timeline of unidentified objects shot down

The balloon was shot down by an F-22 fighter aircraft, about six nautical miles off the coast of South Carolina, near Myrtle Beach.

In a meeting with the Chinese Communist Party’s most senior foreign policy official Wang Yi, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Beijing that sending a “surveillance balloon” over the US was “unacceptable and must never happen again”.

The meeting came hours after the top Chinese diplomat took a swipe at the US, accusing it of violating international norms with “hysterical” behaviour by shooting down the balloon.

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