The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the scheduled metting with China has been postponed, calling the presence of an alleged Chinese spy balloon in United States airspace an “unacceptable” violation of the country’s sovereignty.
The balloon incident “undermined” the purpose of the trip, which was set to start on Sunday, Blinken told reporters on Friday afternoon.
“It’s very important to emphasise that the presence of this surveillance balloon over the United States, in our skies, is a clear violation of our sovereignty, a clear violation of international law and clearly unacceptable,” he said.
China has expressed regret for the balloon entering US airspace, describing it as a civilian airship used for meteorological research that “deviated far from its planned course” because of its “limited self-steering capability”.
But the US administration said the aircraft was a “high-altitude surveillance balloon”.
A State Department official stressed earlier in the day that while Blinken’s trip was postponed, lines of communication remain open between Washington and Beijing as they seek to “responsibly manage” intensifying competition between the two countries.Pre Birthday interview: Birthday Party of Haija Faidat Sarumi Akintunde
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“Our clear assessment was that under these current conditions, it wouldn’t be constructive to visit Beijing at this time, but I’ll also reiterate that this is a postponement and the secretary [Blinken] plans to travel at the earliest appropriate opportunity when conditions allow,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Blinken later said Washington is engaged with Beijing to resolve the “ongoing” issue.
“The first step is getting the surveillance asset out of our space. And that’s what we’re focused on,” he said.
The State Department also said Blinken held a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to address the situation. “The secretary explained that in light of this ongoing issue, it would not be appropriate to visit Beijing at this time,” the department said in a statement.