Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indefinitely postponed his scheduled Beijing trip after China sent a large surveillance balloon into U.S. airspace in the northwestern part of the country.
Blinken was supposed to travel to Beijing on a diplomatic trip to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but after the balloon discovery, Republican lawmakers began calling for Blinken to cancel the trip.
“Secretary Blinken should cancel his trip to China,” tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). “And President Biden must answer why he has not secured U.S. airspace.”
Late on Thursday, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command issued a joint statement that insisted the balloon did not pose a threat.
“[T]he balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time,” the statement reads. “The balloon is currently traveling at altitude well above commercial air traffic.”
NORAD and U.S. Northern Command statement on the high-altitude surveillance balloon. pic.twitter.com/dfdCOHf8Vf
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— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) February 3, 2023
Nevertheless, on Friday, senior State Department officials condemned China for allowing the balloon to enter U.S. airspace and announced the cancellation of Blinken’s trip just hours before he was set to depart. They said, “It is unacceptable that this has occurred. After consultations with our interagency partners, as well as with Congress, we have concluded that the conditions are not right at this moment for Secretary Blinken to travel to China.”
China issued a statement on the balloon, claiming that it is actually a “weather balloon” and is for “meteorological and ‘other’ scientific research,” and asserted that the balloon entered U.S. airspace by mistake.
China's foreign ministry claims that the massive surveillance balloon is of a civilian nature.
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— Upward News (@UpwardNewsHQ) February 3, 2023
.@Varneyco: "Chinese spy balloon hovering over America's long range missile sites in Montana…It's a provocation coming right before…Blinken's visit to China.
By the way, the Chinese call it a 'weather balloon.'" pic.twitter.com/mgZLDsKpjd
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 3, 2023
The Chinese also issued a statement saying, “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure. The Chinese side will continue communicating with the U.S. side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure.”