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Blinken's China trip postponed over Chinese spy balloon in US airspace

Blinkens China trip postponed over Chinese spy balloon in US airspace

Washington/Beijing: After a suspected Chinese spy balloon was seen floating across the US in what Washington called a "clear violation" of US sovereignty, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to China that was scheduled to begin on Friday.

A high-altitude surveillance balloon was being monitored over the United States continental territory, the Pentagon reported on Thursday. According to reports, military officials debated shooting it down over Montana on Wednesday but ultimately advised President Joe Biden against doing so due to the danger posed by falling debris.

Biden was informed about the balloon flight on Tuesday, according to White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, and there was an administration “consensus that it was not appropriate to travel to the People’s Republic of China at this time.”

On Friday, China expressed its remorse over an "airship" that had strayed into US airspace while being utilised for scientific and other non-military objectives, Reuters reported.

According to Jean-Pierre, the US government was aware of China's statement “but the presence of this balloon in our airspace, it is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law. It is unacceptable this occurred.”

Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the spokesman for the Pentagon, reported on Friday that the balloon had altered its direction and was now drifting eastward at a height of roughly 60,000 feet (18,300 metres) above the heart of the United States and displaying its capacity to manoeuvre. He predicted that it would continue to be above the nation for a few more days.

Commercial weather forecaster AccuWeather predicted that the balloon might depart the United States and enter the Atlantic on Saturday night. A Republican senator from the Senate Armed Services Committee named Mike Rounds told Fox News that it would be beneficial to retrieve the balloon in “one way or another” to see “if it was designed to actually collect data or if it was designed to test our response capabilities.”

China's claim that the balloon was blown off course is directly refuted by the Pentagon's admission of the balloon's agility.

Blinken stated that he had informed Wang Yi, director of China's Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, that the incident on the eve of his trip was an "irresponsible act" by China, but that Washington remained committed to engagement and that he would visit when circumstances permitted, at a news conference with South Korea's visiting foreign minister on Friday.

Blinken stated that he would not provide a timeframe for his potential trip to China and that resolving the current crisis was the main priority.

“The first step is ... getting the surveillance asset, out of our air space,” he said, adding that lines of communication between Washington and China would remain open.

The balloon should never have been permitted to enter US airspace, according to Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and it could have been shot down over the water, he added.

“I am calling on the Biden administration to quickly take steps to remove the Chinese spy balloon from US airspace,” he said in a statement.

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