US suspends Blinken China travel following spy balloon controversy

As a result of a Chinese spy balloon flying across the US, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed his trip to China.

According to a senior State Department official, the moment was not appropriate for the first high-level US-China summit there in years.

The official acknowledged the Chinese apology but characterized the balloon as a blatant disregard for international law and sovereignty.

Tensions between the US and China were expected to deteriorate during the visit.

The top US diplomat was scheduled to travel to Beijing to hold discussions on a variety of topics, such as security, Taiwan, and Covid-19.

But when US defense officials revealed they were monitoring a high-altitude surveillance balloon above the US on Thursday, there was alarm.

Theodore Blinken
Anthony Blinken was anticipated to arrive in China on February 5 and 6.
The balloon’s presence incited concern despite the Pentagon’s claim that it was “flying at an altitude considerably above commercial air traffic” and did not “create a military or physical threat to individuals on the ground.”

Donald Trump, a former US president, was one of those urging the US military to shoot it down.

Finally acknowledging ownership of the balloon on Friday, China claimed it was a civilian airship used for meteorological research that got lost due to severe weather.

China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement regretting the event and promising to cooperate with the US to find a solution.

The state department official clarified that although the US confirmed China’s assertion regarding the function of the balloon, it maintained the conclusion that it was being used for spying.

The official added that Mr. Blinken will make another trip to China “at the earliest opportunity” and that Washington intended to keep “open channels of communication” concerning the issue.

Mr. Blinken was scheduled to travel to China on February 5 and 6.

According to a US official cited by the Associated Press, Mr. Blinken and President Joe Biden decided to quickly end the trip.

After making comments about the US economy on Friday morning, Mr. Biden declined to answer any questions regarding the balloon.

US officials claim that the balloon passed over Alaska and Canada before making an appearance in Montana, a state in the US that is home to several critical military missile facilities.

Fighter planes were informed about the object, but the US chose against shooting it down because of the risk of falling debris, according to officials.

Graph of helium-filled high-altitude balloon with solar panels, instruments compartment, and possible cameras, radar, and communications gear. They can fly higher than fighter planes and commercial aircraft, at altitudes of 80,000 to 120,000 feet.
Former President Donald Trump and a number of Republican senators have criticized the choice and urged the US to deflate the balloon.

On his Truth Social social media network, Mr. Trump sent a brief message that read, “Shoot down the balloon.”

The balloon incident, according to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, was “a destabilizing activity that must be addressed,” according to a tweet he posted.

Chinese authorities have already openly shown interest in the potential military and intelligence-gathering possibilities of balloons, but US officials have not commented on the size and specifics of the suspected spy balloon.

An article published in the military-run Liberation Army Daily last year stated that “technological advancements have created a new door for the usage of balloons.”

Taiwan’s defense ministry reported in 2022 that it had discovered Chinese balloons flying over its territory.

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