Chinese spy balloon: The United States (US) has registered a strong protest with China after the latter's 'spy" balloon, of the size of three buses, was seen hovering over America's airspace. As the development has left the United States fuming, it has, in protest, cancelled the Beijing trip of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
According to the White House, he was scheduled to leave for China on Friday night (February 3), which would have been the first visit of a top American diplomat to China in several years.
Speaking over the phone with the Chinese counterpart, Blinken told the Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi that he will not be travelling to the People’s Republic of China at this time in light of the current presence of a high-altitude PRC surveillance balloon in US airspace.
Blinken terms it an irresponsible act by China
Blinken relayed that he had planned to visit Beijing to follow up on the agenda agreed to by President Biden and President Xi in November in Bali. He noted the PRC’s statement of regret but conveyed that this is an irresponsible act and a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law that undermined the purpose of the trip, State Department Spokesperson said in a readout of the call.
“The Secretary explained that in light of this ongoing issue, it would not be appropriate to visit Beijing at this time," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
According to her, Blinken underscored that the United States is committed to diplomatic engagement and maintaining open lines of communication, and that he would be prepared to visit Beijing as soon as conditions allow.
President Biden closely monitoring the situation
In a statement, the White House also said that President Joe Biden had been briefed about China's violation of US airspace and is closely monitoring the developing situation. As of now they have decided against destroying it because of the safety of the public, but all actions are on the table, it added.
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Jean-Pierre further said that the US has noted the Chinese statement of regret. “But the presence of this balloon in our airspace, it is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable that this occurred,” she remarked. Meanwhile, both the White House and the Pentagon said that it does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.
Another Chinese surveillance balloon in Latin America
Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Friday night said that another Chinese surveillance is transiting Latin America. “We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon. We have no further information to provide at this time,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said.
(With inputs from AP)