Blinken postpones China visit after Chinese spy balloon found over U.S. territory

File – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. – Alexandros Michailidis/EU Counci / DPA

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday postponed his visit to China, scheduled for next week, following the discovery of a Chinese spy balloon over U.S. territory.

Blinken was to become the first member of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Cabinet to visit the Asian giant, but now the authorities have decided to cancel the trip for the time being pending more information on the balloon in question, which was detected at a high altitude over areas of the state of Montana that host nuclear facilities.

In this sense, the Biden Administration considers that going to China now could send the wrong message, so it has postponed the trip indefinitely, as Government sources have explained to ‘The Wall Street Journal’.

Beijing, for its part, has admitted that the balloon is theirs, but has used scientific reasons to explain its deployment. In addition, it has admitted that it is «regrettable» that an aerial object has entered U.S. airspace by «forces beyond its control».

«The balloon is China’s and is civilian in nature, used for scientific research, such as meteorological matters,» said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, who noted that «after being affected by westerly winds and faced with limited controllability, it deviated severely from its scheduled route.»

The balloon was detected earlier this week over the territory of Montana, where several intercontinental missile storage facilities are located, although the authorities have ruled out that it poses a «physical or military» threat to the population.

Although such incidents have been reported in the past, Republicans have harshly criticized what happened and have pointed out that it is a clear sign that China «has not made a change in its foreign policy» despite showing an apparent openness towards the United States.

The Chinese government has been quick to call on Washington «not to overstate» the issue. «We have no intention of violating the airspace or sovereignty of other countries,» said Mao Ning, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Blinken was to become the first U.S. Secretary of State to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in nearly six years. With this trip, the Biden Administration sought to strengthen relations with the country and reduce tension.