Antony Blinken canceled his trip to China after the spy balloon incursion into US airspace
The US Secretary of State was scheduled to visit Beijing this weekend. However, it has been postponed after the incident
The Secretary of State US Secretary Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off a weekend visit to Beijing after the discovery of a Chinese spy balloon that illegally flew over US airspace, a US official said Friday.
The visit “has been postponed,” said the official who requested anonymity a day after the Pentagon announced that a Chinese balloon was flying over US territory.
However, the US is confident of preserving communication with China despite the Blinken cancellation.
Senior State Department OfficialsThey said in a call with journalists that the presence of the spy balloon is a “clear violation” of sovereignty and international law, making it “unacceptable” and they have decided to postpone Blinken's visit.
This trip was intended to ease rising tensions between the two superpowers.
Moments before the decision, China issued a high-profile statement late at night lamenting what he called aaccident involving a civilian aircraft, but the United States was unimpressed.
Blinken, who has faced intense pressure for the journey of the Republican Party rival, decided to postpone his two-day visit from Sunday, which would have been the first by a senior US diplomat since October 2018, a US official said.
A balloon flies in the sky above Billings, Montana, United States
The official said the United States was “confident” in maintaining communication with China despite Blinken's cancellation, and that the visit would be rescheduled once the conditions are “adequate”.
The Pentagon said Thursday it was tracking the balloon flying high above the western state of Montana and decided, for safety reasons, not to shoot it down.
After initial hesitation, Beijing admitted ownership of the “blimp” and said it was blown off course by the winds.
“The blimp is from China. He is a civil airship used for research purposes, mainly meteorological, ”said the statement attributed to a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Chinese side regrets the involuntary entry of the aircraft into US airspace due to force majeure,” he said, using the legal term for an act beyond human control.
“The The Chinese side will continue to communicate with the US side and handle this unexpected situation appropriately.”
Republican lawmakersquickly pounced on the incident, calling the president Joe Biden, who has largely preserved and at times expanded the aggressive policies of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump on China, as weak.
Former US President Donald Trump greets Chinese President Xi Jinping
“President Biden should stop coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists. Lower the balloon now and blow up your tech package, which could be an intelligence bonanza,” tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton, a prominent hardliner who had urged Blinken to cancel his trip.
A senior defense official said Biden had asked for military options, but the Pentagon believed shooting down the object would put people at risk from the debris.
The balloon has “additive value limited from an intelligence gathering perspective,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
But the official said it was clearly a balloon intended for surveillance.
The northwestern United States is home to sensitive airbases and nuclear weapons in underground silos.
The Pentagon said fighter jets were flown in to examine the globe. Canada also said it had tracked the balloon.
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said that, as of Thursday, the balloon was “traveling at an altitude well above air traffic commercial.”
“It does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground,” Ryder said in a statement.
Preparing for the worst
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was visiting the Philippines, held talks Wednesday with senior Pentagon officials after Biden called for options, the defense official said.
The Secretary of Defense , Lloyd Austin
In the Philippines, Austin agreed to expand the US military presence, weeks after a separate troop deal with another regional ally, Japan.
US military moves show the US is preparing for a possible conflict over Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that China claims as its own, despite diplomatic efforts.
Biden had a surprisingly cordial meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November on the sidelines of a summit in Bali, where they agreed to send Blinken to Beijing.< /p>
Blinken had described China as a leading competitor, but said last month his trip was intended to set up “security barriers” to prevent tensions from escalating into conflict.
A high-ranking US military official recently told his forces to be ready for war with China after Taiwan's elections next year.
“I hope I'm wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” wrote the head of the Air Mobility Command, General Mike Minihan, in a memo, saying that the US election in 2024 would also “offer Xi a distracted America.”
< p class="paragraph">Blinken has said that Xi has been speeding up his deadline to “reunify” with Taiwan, to which the US sells arms.
But Austin, while accusing China's attempt to “establish a new normal” in Taiwan, said last month that it doubted an invasion was “imminent”.
(With information from AFP)