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Top US official calls off Beijing visit after China’s spy balloon incident

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a visit to China that was scheduled to start on Friday after a Chinese spy balloon was detected over America’s nuclear weapons sites.

Fighter jets were mobilised to tackle the threat emerging from the balloon but military leaders advised President Joe Biden against shooting the balloon out of the sky for fear debris could pose a safety threat to people on the ground.

Addressing a news conference in Washington, Biden said, “I spoke this morning with director of China’s foreign affairs office Wang Yi to convey that in light of China’s unacceptable action, I am postponing my plan of travel this weekend to China as you know President Biden and Xi agreed during their meetings in Bali in November that I would travel to Beijing.”

Blinken said that it was ‘detrimental’ to discussions that officials planned to have during his visit. He added that the US and China will continue to keep lines of communication open, including addressing the balloon controversy.

In response to a question on the surveillance balloon, Blinken replied: “It’s very important to emphasize that the presence of this surveillance balloon over the US in our skies is a clear violation of international law and clearly unacceptable. And we’ve made it clear to China. And what this has done is created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip including ongoing efforts to build a floor under the relationship and to address a broad range of issues that are of concern for both the countries and the world.”

“So we took the step that I announced earlier today in postponing the planned visit for this weekend meanwhile, we are going to remain engaged with the PRC as this ongoing issue is resolved,” he added.

He further said that once the balloon was detected, the American government acted immediately to prevent it from collecting sensitive information.

The US also engaged with close allies and partners to inform them of the presence of the surveillance balloon in our airspace, he added.

Blinken said he told the Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office, Wang Yi, on Friday morning that the balloon flight was an “irresponsible act” and a “clear violation of US sovereignty” and international law.

He said he plans to visit Beijing “when conditions allow”. “The world expects the United States and China to manage our relationship responsibly,” he said, adding, “The United States will continue to act in a way that reflects that responsibility. We look to our PRC counterparts to do the same”.