Antony Blinken postpones high-stakes trip to China next week after ‘spy balloon’ hovers over US
Blinken was slated to visit Beijing early next week to meet his Chinese counterpart Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The US State Secretary also does not want the balloon, initially suspected to be an espionage tool to dominate his meetings with Chinese leaders
Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed his trip to China next week following a suspected Beijing-operated spy balloon that was found looming over parts of Montana for a couple of days this week.
Blinken was scheduled to visit Beijing early next week to meet his Chinese counterpart Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss crucial issues.
According to US government officials, Blinken will delay his upcoming trip to Beijing, originally scheduled for next week, since he did not want to blow the situation out of proportion by cancelling his visit. At the same time, the US State Secretary also does not want the balloon, initially suspected to be an espionage tool to dominate his meetings with top Chinese leaders.
“After consultations with our interagency partners, as well as with Congress, we have concluded that the conditions are not right at this moment for Secretary Blinken to travel to China,” a senior State Department official said on Friday.
The official declined to divulge when Blinken would reschedule his travel to China, saying only that the department would “determine when the conditions are right.”
Earlier on Friday, the Chinese foreign ministry said that the balloon flying over US airspace was a civilian weather device intended for scientific research which had veered off course due to bad weather.
China’s foreign ministry, in a statement indicated that it was used “mainly for meteorological” purposes and any entry into US airspace was “unintentional”.
“Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” the Chinese foreign ministry statement read.
The statement called the incident an “unexpected situation” and said Beijing would continue to communicate with the US on it.
“Force majeure” refers to something that is done beyond the control of the government.
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