Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to China that was expected to begin on Friday after a Chinese spy balloon was tracked flying across the United States in what US officials called a clear violation of US sovereignty.

“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 told reporters.

“We have noted the PRC (People’s Republic of China) statement of regret, but the presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable that this has occurred,” the official said.

“The secretary conveyed to the director of the Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi earlier this morning, that the trip would need to be postponed. But the secretary indicated that he would plan to travel to the PRC at the earliest opportunity when conditions allow.”

ABC News previously cited a US official as saying that Blinken did not want to blow the situation out of proportion by canceling his trip, but also did not want the balloon incident to dominate his meetings with Chinese officials. China expressed regret that a civilian airship had strayed into U.S. territory after being blown off course, an incident that sparked a political furor in the United States.

Pentagon spokesperson Air Force Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters on Thursday that the government was tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental United States and said it was “traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

U.S. military leaders considered shooting down the balloon over Montana on Wednesday but eventually, President Joe Biden decided against it because of the safety risk from debris, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton called on Blinken to cancel his trip, while Republican former President Donald Trump, the declared presidential nominee for 2024, chanted “Shoot down the balloon!” on his Truth social media platform.

In a statement on Friday, China’s foreign ministry said the balloon was for civilian meteorological and other scientific purposes and expressed regret that the airship had strayed into US airspace.

By Archana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *