Blinken postpones trip to Beijing after suspected Chinese spy balloon spotted over US, officials sayFrom CNN's Kevin Liptak and Jennifer Hansler
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed his upcoming trip to China in response to the flying of a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the United States, according to two US officials.
The postponement marks a significant new phase in the tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The Chinese foreign ministry claimed Friday that the suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon flying over the continental United States is a "civilian airship" used mainly for weather research that deviated from its planned course. The statement by a spokesperson for the Chinese ministry is the first admission that the airship originated in China since the Pentagon revealed it was tracking the balloon on Thursday.
A US military official said that the incident was “definitely serious” because of the “audacity” of the Chinese government, rather than any intelligence gain. While existing satellites are able to gather similar amounts of information, the timing of the spy balloon — right before the planned Blinken trip — and the fact that this is right over the continental US contribute to the seriousness of this moment, the official said.
The top US diplomat’s trip to the Chinese capital was due to follow up President Joe Biden's meeting with Xi Jinping in Bali late last year.
"On China, as you know, President Biden, President Xi had a very open, candid conversation during the last G20 meeting in Bali, and they spoke about our intentions," Blinken said at a press conference in Washington, DC, in January. "President Biden shared our intentions and our priorities, and we got some sense of that from President Xi as well."
"These lines of communication, starting with the presidents but also including many of us, are vitally important," Blinken said at the time.