Panic As Blinken Ends Beijing Trip Over Chinese Spy Balloon

The Pentagon on Friday claimed that a Chinese spy balloon has been spotted over Latin America barely 24 hours after a similar craft was seen in US skies, prompting the scrapping of a rare trip to Beijing by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The Pentagon asserted that the first balloon was now heading eastwards over the central United States, adding it was not being shot down for safety reasons.

Later Friday, Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said: ‘We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America.’

“We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” he added, without specifying its exact location.

Moments before Blinken’s decision to cancel his trip — aimed at easing tensions between the two countries — China issued a rare statement of regret over the first balloon and blamed winds for pushing what it called a civilian airship into US airspace.

But President Joe Biden’s administration described it as a maneuverable “surveillance balloon”.

With the rival Republican Party already on the offensive, Blinken postponed a two-day visit that was to have started Sunday.

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In a telephone call with senior Chinese official Wang Yi, Blinken said he “made clear that the presence of this surveillance balloon in US airspace is a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law, that it’s an irresponsible act.”Blinken said, however, that he told Wang that “the United States is committed to diplomatic engagement with China and that I plan to visit Beijing when conditions allow.”’The first step is getting the surveillance asset out of our airspace. That’s what we’re focused on,’ Blinken told reporters.

According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Wang said the two discussed the incident ‘in a calm and professional manner.’

‘China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law,’ Xinhua quoted Wang as telling Blinken.

‘We do not accept any groundless speculation and hype,’ he said, calling both sides to “avoid misjudgments and manage divergence.’

Blinken would have been the first top US diplomat to visit China since October 2018, signaling a thaw following intense friction under former president Donald Trump.

Africa Today News, New York recalls that late last month, Blinken said he would use the trip to help establish “guardrails” to prevent the relationship from escalating into all-out conflict.

Africa Today News, New York

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