Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a scheduled trip to Beijing this weekend in response to China sending a large surveillance balloon over the Northwest United States this week. Blinken’s cancellation comes after President Trump called on the Biden administration to shoot down the balloon. Joe Biden has instead decided to let the balloon continue spying on the U.S. As TGP reported Thursday night, the balloon flight is a great affront by China President Xi Jinping to Biden and Blinken.
Screen image via KSVI-TV.
The AP reported Blinken’s cancellation (excerpt):
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed a planned high-stakes weekend diplomatic trip to China as the Biden administration weighs a broader response to the discovery of a high-altitude Chinese balloon flying over sensitive sites in the western United States, a U.S. official said Friday.
The abrupt decision came despite China’s claim that the balloon was a weather research satellite that had blown off course. The U.S. has described it as a surveillance satellite.
The decision came just hours before Blinken had been due to depart Washington for Beijing and marked a new blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations. The official said Blinken and President Joe Biden determined it was best not to proceed with the trip at this time.
Early Friday morning, President Trump posted a blunt statement about the balloon on Truth Social, “SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!”
NORAD and U.S. Northern Command issued a joint statement late Thursday night staing the balloon was not a military threat.
NORAD and U.S. Northern Command statement on the high-altitude surveillance balloon. pic.twitter.com/dfdCOHf8Vf
— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) February 3, 2023
UPDATE: China issued a statement saying it “regrets” the balloon went off course.
Statement from the Chinese foreign ministry admitting the ‘spy balloon’ is from China, but they say it is a civilian airship that “affected by the westerlies and with limited self-steering capability” deviated from its planned course pic.twitter.com/Hm9Fhqdif5
— Debi Edward (@debiedwarditv) February 3, 2023
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler posted a “senior State Department official” on China’s statement, “A senior State Department official says the “clear assessment was that under these current conditions, it wouldn’t be constructive to visit Beijing at this time,” adding the presence of the Chinse spy balloon “is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law.”…”The official said the US acknowledges China’s “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 US acknowledges China’s “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.”
— Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) February 3, 2023