The Chinese foreign ministry mocked the United States on Tuesday for its concerns over an alleged Chinese spy balloon while a toxic chemical leak from a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio threatens to become one of the most damaging environmental disasters in the country’s history.
“Apparently some in the US take a wandering civilian balloon as a big threat while the explosive train derailment and toxic chemical leak Not. #OhioChernobyl,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted.
US officials and national media outlets have thoroughly covered the journey of the alleged spy ballon, which the US shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4. Meanwhile a train derailment has forced residents of East Palestine and surrounding communities to vacate their homes.
Chinese officials have denied that the balloon was being used to spy on the US, arguing that it was a civilian vessel used mainly to gather weather-related data and which was blown off course by strong winds.
Whatever the case, residents of East Palestine and surrounding communities are dealing with much more pressing matters. Residents have reported that animals have died after being exposed to the toxic chemicals in the air, and chemcials from the crash have also been found in the Ohio River — a primary source of drinking water for millions of people in states including Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Monday that it has not detected vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride in the homes it has canvassed in the area, but the federal government as a whole has appeared relatively slow to respond to the derailment that occurred on 3 February — just a day before the US shot down the alleged spy balloon.
Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation, made his first public comments about the derailment on Monday night in a tweet thread.
“I continue to be concerned about the impacts of the Feb 3 train derailment near East Palestine, OH, and the effects on families in the ten days since their lives were upended through no fault of their own,” he wrote in a tweet. “It’s important that families have access to useful & accurate information[.]”
Meanwhile, Chinese officials continue to attack the US over its response to the balloon. Newsweek reported that an editorial in the newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party accused the US of reacting in a “hysterical” manner and letting its response “be hijacked by the bitter domestic partisan politics.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies