Blinken delays his trip to China as tensions over the US balloon rise
Chinese “surveillance” balloon in US airspace is “unacceptable” breach of national security, according to Washington.
DC, Washington A visit to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been postponed after the country’s sovereignty was allegedly violated by an alleged Chinese spy balloon in American airspace.
Blinken told reporters on Friday afternoon that the balloon incident “undermined” the goal of the mission, which was scheduled to begin on Sunday.
It’s crucial to stress that the presence of this surveillance balloon in our skies over the United States is a flagrant infringement of our sovereignty, a clear infraction of international law, and categorically unacceptable.
In a statement regretting the balloon’s entry into US airspace, China described it as a weather research blimp that “deviated considerably from its planned trajectory” due to its “poor self-steering capability.”
It is a “high-altitude surveillance balloon,” according to US officials.
HAPPENING NOW: Photo shows the massive Chinese spy balloon over Montana.— Antonio Sabato Jr (@AntonioSabatoJr) February 3, 2023
U.S. military is tracking the balloon. pic.twitter.com/RS52mQE9Og
In a statement released on Saturday, China’s foreign ministry claimed that the flight of a Chinese “airship” over the US was a result of a force majeure mishap and charged US lawmakers and media with exploiting the circumstance to cast doubt on Beijing.
The ministry issued a statement saying, “China has always strictly upheld international law and respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.”
The ministry added that Blinken’s travel had not been announced by Beijing or Washington and that “we accept” the fact that “US announcements are their own affair.”
The Pentagon said that another Chinese balloon had been spotted over Latin America, without providing a specific location, at the same time as the Chinese statement.
“Reports indicate that a balloon is passing through Latin America. According to our current assessment, it is another Chinese surveillance balloon, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder of the Pentagon said.
A US State Department source emphasized earlier on Friday that, despite Blinken’s trip being postponed, channels of contact between Washington and Beijing were open as they worked to “responsibly manage” their nations’ escalating rivalry.
On condition of anonymity, the official told reporters, “Our clear assessment was that under these current conditions, it wouldn’t be constructive to visit Beijing at this time. However, I’ll also reiterate that this is a postponement and the secretary [Blinken] plans to travel at the earliest appropriate opportunity when conditions allow.
Later, Blinken said that Washington and Beijing were collaborating to address the “ongoing” problem.
“The first step is to remove the monitoring device from our area. And on that, we’re concentrating,” he remarked.
The director of China’s Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, spoke with Blinken over the phone on Friday evening and they discussed how to handle unintentional situations in a cool and professional manner, according to a second statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.
According to the government, Wang advised Blinken that quick communication was essential to prevent any misunderstandings.
The State Department also reported that Blinken spoke with Wang Yi over the phone to resolve the issue. The secretary “indicated that it would not be acceptable to visit Beijing at this time in light of this ongoing situation,” the department said in a statement.
Relations between Beijing and Washington have deteriorated recently due to a number of causes of contention, such as trade disputes, Taiwan’s legal status, China’s claims in the South China Sea, and the US’s ongoing campaign against the rise of Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific.
China has also received warnings from the US not to support Russia in Ukraine.
Blinken’s trip, which has now been postponed, was intended to ease some of those tensions. It would have been the first time a US secretary of state had visited China since Mike Pompeo, who served as the country’s top diplomat at the time, visited Beijing in 2018 and met with his colleague but not President Xi Jinping.
In late 2022, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi met outside the Bali, Indonesia, G20 summit.
Officials from China and the US have emphasized that they do not seek conflict and have cautioned against turning the rivalry into a new Cold War.
Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett claimed the balloon controversy would have overshadowed Blinken’s trip to China while reporting from the White House. There are already many significant concerns between these two countries that need to be discussed. This would be encompassing of them all, she replied.
On Thursday, the balloon was initially spotted over Montana in the north of the United States. However, the Pentagon did not specify which state it was over when it stated on Friday that it was “above the center of the continental United States.”
The Pentagon’s Patrick Ryder told reporters, “At this moment, we believe the balloon does not pose a military or physical threat to individuals on the ground, but we’ll continue to observe and consider our options.”
He continued by pointing out that the balloon was much above commercial plane travel.
Ryder also rejected the Chinese denial that the balloon was a research balloon used for commercial purposes. We are aware that it is a surveillance balloon, as he stated.
US leaders’ responses
The balloon was over the northeastern region of the state, according to Kansas’ US Senator Roger Marshall.
“I deplore any efforts made by the Chinese to spy on Americans. Whether it’s our airspace or the southern border, President Biden must uphold US sovereignty, Marshall opined on Twitter.
In response to the incident, a number of Republican members of the US Congress called for an explanation and action from the Biden administration.
Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, demanded a congressional hearing on the balloon and termed it a “serious domestic security threat.”
Blinken’s decision to cancel his trip was applauded by Congressman Scott Fitzgerald, who added that “the administration must do much more to inform China that spying against the United States will not be accepted.”
Other lawmakers urged the Pentagon to deflate the balloon.
Why is Biden refusing to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon that is now circling the country? Our existence is threatened by the Chinese Communist Party, said Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn on Twitter.
US defense authorities have stated that if they were to shoot the plane down, flying debris may endanger people on the ground.
Senator for Montana and Democrat Jon Tester described the balloon as a “totally inappropriate” provocation.
In a statement, Tester said, “I will hold everyone accountable until I have true answers on how this happened and what precautions the Administration took to safeguard our country. We are still waiting for meaningful answers.
Canada, which shares a border with Montana and has tense relations with China, reported that it summoned the ambassador of that country on Thursday in response to the event.
The Canadian foreign ministry went on record to say “We will keep vehemently expressing our viewpoint to Chinese officials through different channels.”
Melanie Joly, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, claimed that she spoke with Blinken on Friday about the safety of the nation’s airspace.
In a tweet, Joly stated that “we are working with our American colleagues and continuing to take all necessary precautions to preserve Canada’s sensitive information.”