Because of "espionage" balloon: US Secretary of State postpones trip to China

Antony Blinken actually wanted to travel to Beijing at the weekend.

Because of "espionage" balloon: US Secretary of State postpones trip to China

Antony Blinken actually wanted to travel to Beijing at the weekend. However, after a Chinese balloon caused a stir in American airspace, the US Secretary of State summarily postponed his visit. China, meanwhile, assures that it is a weather balloon gone astray.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has canceled a trip to Beijing planned for the weekend in the face of allegations of US espionage against China. The visit should take place at another time as soon as circumstances allow, said a senior official at the US State Department in Washington. Blinken was originally supposed to leave on Friday.

The already tense relations between the USA and China are burdened by new upsets: The US military accuses Beijing of having placed a large spy balloon over the north of the United States. The US Department of Defense made the discovery public on Thursday evening (local time). Accordingly, there were also considerations of shooting down the balloon.

After hesitation, Beijing admitted that it was a Chinese flying object, but that it was only used for scientific purposes and had accidentally deviated from its trajectory. "China regrets unexpected entry into U.S. airspace due to force majeure," the State Department said in a statement. The US State Department official said they took note of the statement. However, the presence of this balloon in US airspace is a "clear violation of our sovereignty" and international law. "It is unacceptable that this has happened." The US government stands by its assessment of the incident. Therefore, the circumstances for a visit are currently not given.

The trip will not be canceled completely, but only postponed, it said. The incident, just a few days before the planned talks, was perceived as a provocation in the USA. According to the Pentagon, the balloon was spotted over the northwestern US state of Montana on Wednesday. A few days ago he entered US airspace. Its trajectory will be followed closely.

A senior Defense Department official said Department Chief Lloyd Austin had rounded up senior Pentagon officials to discuss how to proceed. President Joe Biden was also informed and requested military options. Launching the balloon was considered, the official said. F-22 fighter jets were also provisionally put on standby and air traffic in Montana's largest city, Billings, was temporarily suspended. Because of the danger of falling debris, the decision was ultimately made not to destroy the balloon. However, various precautions have been taken to protect sensitive information.

The Chinese government initially said it was investigating the reports and warned against hasty speculation. A further statement followed a little later: The Foreign Ministry rejected the allegation of espionage, but admitted that the border had been crossed to a certain extent. "China regrets unexpected entry into US airspace due to force majeure."