US Secretary of State postpones visit to China after ‘spy balloon’ case

Secretary of State Blinken announced the postponement of the visit to China after the Chinese balloon appeared in US airspace.

At a press conference on February 3, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said that he had informed senior diplomat Wang Yi of the decision to postpone his visit to China after a Chinese airship strayed into US airspace.

“The presence of this surveillance balloon in US airspace clearly violates our sovereignty and international law, and is also an irresponsible act,” Blinken said in a phone call with Mr. Mr. Wang Yi.

“The United States is committed to a diplomatic approach to China, and I intend to go to Beijing when conditions permit,” Blinken said. “The first step is to get the surveillance equipment out of US airspace, which is what we’re focused on doing,” Blinken said.

China has not commented on the US Secretary of State’s announcement.

The Chinese hot air balloon appeared in the sky over Billings, Montana, USA, on February 1.  Photo: AFP.

The Chinese hot air balloon appeared in the sky over Billings, Montana, USA, on February 1. Image: AFP.

Blinken’s visit was originally scheduled for February 5-6 and was the first time a US secretary of state has visited China since October 2018. Blinken said last month that he would use the trip to “establish a protective barrier” to prevent tensions in US-China relations from escalating into full-blown conflict.

US officials emphasized that the visit was postponed, not cancelled. However, a senior US diplomat said that the stray balloon caused the agenda with China “to shrink in a way that is neither beneficial nor constructive”.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on February 3 that it “regrets that the balloon strayed into the US due to a force majeure incident”. The agency said this is a civilian balloon for meteorological research and other scientific activities, and affirmed that China will continue to maintain contact with the US to properly handle the incident.

The Pentagon announced on February 3 that the US Air Force had been monitoring a balloon entering US airspace for several days, identifying it as “China’s high-altitude reconnaissance balloon”.

The airship flies very high, away from the area where the air activity takes place and does not pose a danger to the US military or people on the ground. The balloon flew over a number of sensitive locations, but the United States assessed the vehicle as of limited value in intelligence gathering.

The US military plans to shoot down the balloon over Montana and send F-22 fighters to the area. However, the Pentagon abandoned the plan due to fear of debris falling to the ground and threatening those below.

Ngoc Anh (Theo Guardian)

Leave a Comment