WASHINGTON — Despite China’s firm denials, a huge high-altitude Chinese balloon sailed across the United States on Friday, drawing serious accusations that the Pentagon is spying on a classified military installation. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken abruptly canceled a high-risk visit to Beijing aimed at de-escalating tensions between the United States and China.
Aside from the government response, a vague video circulated on social media as people with binoculars and telephoto lenses attempted to spot a “spy balloon” in the sky heading southeast over Kansas and Missouri at an altitude of 60,000 feet. scattered in the media.
It was previously spotted over Montana, home to one of three U.S. nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, defense officials said.
Later Friday, the Pentagon confirmed reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We have now determined that it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brig. refused to provide
White House Press Secretary Carine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the United States had indeed tracked the first balloon since at least the first briefing to President Joe Biden on Tuesday. Biden initially tended to order surveillance balloons to be blown out of the sky, according to three U.S. officials, and senior defense officials said the U.S. would send fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot it down if ordered to do so. said he was preparing for
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley strongly advised Biden not to shoot down the balloon, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations, and that the balloon is very large. said he warned. Like three school buses – and their considerable weight could create a debris field large enough to endanger Americans on the ground. He later assessed that the balloon was unlikely to reveal important information.
It’s not the first time a Chinese surveillance balloon has been tracked over U.S. territory, according to officials, and it happened at least once during the presidency of former President Donald Trump.
Blinken’s trip was canceled despite China’s claims that the balloon was merely a weather-research “blimp” that had been blown off course. The Pentagon dismissed it out of hand, as did China’s claim that the balloon was not used for surveillance and had limited navigational capabilities.
Blinken, who was due to leave Washington for Beijing late Friday, called senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi and said sending balloons over the United States was “an irresponsible act, and that (China) I made the decision to take the ,” he said. The eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussion we were preparing. ”
In a statement on Saturday morning, China’s foreign ministry said, “In fact, the United States and China have never announced a visit. increase.”
According to Beijing, Wang said, “China always strictly abides by international law and does not accept baseless speculations and hype. When faced with unforeseen circumstances, both sides should remain calm and communicate in a timely manner.” , should avoid misunderstandings and manage differences.”
After passing an important military installation in Montana, the balloon was traveling southeast through the heart of the central United States during the day and was expected to remain in U.S. airspace for several days.
The development has dealt a new blow to already strained Sino-U.S. relations.Nevertheless, U.S. officials insist diplomatic routes remain open, and Mr. Blinken will travel to China “if the situation permits.” said he was ready.
“We continue to believe that having open lines of communication is important,” he said.
Biden declined to comment on the issue when asked at an economic event. Nikki Haley said the US should shoot down the balloon immediately.
Several Republican congressmen have said the same thing, with many accusing the administration of “allowing” the balloon invasion.
“The idea that the Chinese Communist Party now has spy balloons heading to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home of stealth bombers, is absolutely incredible,” said Senator Eric Schmidt, R-Mo. said. “Americans shouldn’t accept this. I don’t.”
Jean-Pierre did not say why he waited until Thursday for the government to make its concerns public.
Pentagon spokesman Ryder on Friday declined to say whether there were any new considerations about shooting down the balloon. He said it currently poses no threat.
Ryder said it was steerable and veered, not just tossed by the wind.
Still, weather experts said China’s claim that the balloon veered off course was not unworkable. Dan Jaffe, an atmospheric chemistry professor at the University of Washington, said the Chinese wind pattern known as the westerlies that carry balloons to the western United States is “absolutely possible and likely impossible.”
Regarding Mr Blinken’s visit, Mr Jean-Pierre said a diplomatic visit to China would not be appropriate at such a time. She said, “The presence of this balloon in our airspace… It is a clear violation of our sovereignty and international law and it is unacceptable that this has happened.”
A State Department official said Brinken and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman protested to senior officials at the Chinese embassy on Wednesday, the day before the Pentagon announced the discovery of the balloon.
The long-awaited meeting with senior Chinese officials has the potential to find some common ground in an era of major disagreements over Taiwan, human rights, China’s claims in the South China Sea, North Korea and Russia’s territorial claims. It was seen in both countries as a method. War in Ukraine, trade policy, climate change.
The visit, which was agreed upon by Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit in Indonesia in November, was not officially announced, but officials in both Beijing and Washington recently announced plans for meetings on Sunday and Monday. was talking about Blinken’s imminent arrival.
China has angrily condemned surveillance attempts by the United States and others in what it considers to be its territory, and once shot down a U.S. spy plane and detained its crew on Hainan Island. It was relatively conciliatory in its response to complaints.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the balloons are civilian airships mainly used for meteorological research. He said the airship had limited “autopilot” capabilities and “deviated significantly from its planned course” due to the wind.
“The Chinese side regrets that the airship unintentionally entered U.S. airspace due to force majeure,” the statement said, citing legal language used to refer to events beyond its control.
Washington’s Ellen Nickmeyer, Tara Kopp, Lolita C. Bardot, Amar Madani, Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo. Matthew Brown of Billings, Montana, Emily Wang Fujiyama of Beijing and his AP news assistant Caroline Chen contributed to this report.
https://chicago.suntimes.com/2023/2/3/23585423/chinese-balloon-spying-united-states-pentagon-blinken-china-trip-canceled A Chinese balloon flies over the United States.Blinken abandons trip to Beijing