Blinken postpones visit to China because of balloon over US | Politics News

Washington DC – Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed a visit to China, the US government has confirmed, calling the presence of an alleged Chinese national a spy balloon in US airspace is an “unacceptable” violation of sovereignty.

A senior State Department official said Friday that the “unsuitable conditions” for the visit were scheduled to begin Sunday due to the “irresponsible” balloon flight.

China has expressed regret over the balloon’s entry into US airspace, describing it as a civilian airship used for meteorological research that had “deviated far from the intended route”. because of “limited self-control”. But US authorities said the plane was a “high-altitude surveillance balloon”.

“We have recorded China [People’s Republic of China] statement regret, but the presence of this hot air balloon in our airspace is clearly a violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable that this happened, “A State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The official stressed that lines of communication remain open between Washington and Beijing as they seek to “manage responsibly.” increase competition between the two countries.

“Our clear assessment is that under current conditions it would not be constructive to visit Beijing at this time, but I will also reiterate that this is a delay and the secretary [Blinken] plan to travel at the earliest appropriate time when conditions permit,” the official said.

Relations between Beijing and Washington have become strained over many points of tension in recent years, including trade issues, Taiwan’s statusclaims to the South China Sea and the continued US effort to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The US has also warned China not to go to Russia aid in Ukraine.

Blinken’s now-postponed trip is intended to ease some of that stress. It would be the first visit by a US secretary of state to China since 2018, when then-top diplomat Mike Pompeo traveled to Beijing and met his counterpart but not President Xi Jinping.

US President Joe Biden meet Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia at the end of 2022.

Both Chinese and American officials stressed that they were not seeking confrontation, warning about turning the competition into a confrontation. New Cold War.

Reporting from the White House, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said the hot air balloon controversy would overshadow Blinken’s trip to China.

“There are a lot of big issues that need to be discussed between these two countries… This will cover all of them,” she said.

Hot air balloons were first observed over the northern US state of Montana on Thursday. But the Pentagon said Friday that it is now “above the center of the continental United States” without specifying exactly which states.

Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder told reporters: “We currently assess that the balloon does not pose a military or material threat to people on the ground at this time, and we I will continue to monitor and consider options.”

He added that the hot air balloon was flying well on civil aviation vehicles.

Ryder also rejected the Chinese explanation that the balloon was a civil aircraft for research. “The reality is: We know it’s a surveillance balloon,” he said.

Several Republican members of the US Congress have asked the Biden administration for answers and action on the case.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley has called for a congressional hearing on the balloon, describing it as a “major homeland security threat.”

Representative Scott Fitzgerald welcomed Blinken’s decision to postpone the trip, but said “the administration must do more to tell China that espionage will not be tolerated against the United States.”

Other lawmakers called on the Pentagon to launch the balloon.

“Why didn’t Biden shoot down the Chinese spy balloon currently flying over the US? The Chinese Communist Party is a threat to our very existence,” Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn wrote on Twitter.

US defense officials have said that debris from the plane could pose a threat to civilians on the ground if they shot it down.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester, who represents Montana, called the balloon a “completely unacceptable” provocation.

“We are still waiting for a real answer as to how this happened and what steps the Administration has taken to protect our country and I will hold everyone accountable until I get them,” Tester said in a statement. declare.

Canada, bordered by Montana and frosty relations with Chinasaid it summoned the Chinese ambassador on Thursday about the incident.

“We will continue to strongly express our position to Chinese officials through multiple channels,” Canada’s foreign ministry told Al Jazeera in an email.

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