Friday, February 3, 2023

Secretary of State Antony Blinken Cancels Trip to Beijing Over Chinese Spy Balloon (VIDEO)

This is freaky cold war-level shit. 

At the Wall Street Journal, "Blinken Trip to China Postponed After Suspected Spy Balloon Spotted Over U.S.":

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration said that a suspected Chinese reconnaissance balloon drifting over the continental U.S. violated American sovereignty, and indefinitely postponed a scheduled visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken aimed at easing the acrimony in the nations’ relationship.

Officials pulled the plug on the trip hours before Mr. Blinken was set to depart, underscoring the enormous challenges of finding areas of constructive cooperation, even as both capitals reiterated on Friday their commitment to reviving talks at a later date.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied Friday that the craft was for spying, saying it was a civilian balloon designed primarily for meteorological study that had blown off course. “China will continue to maintain communication with the U.S. to properly handle the unexpected situation,” the ministry said in a brief statement.

But the U.S. said it was certain of its assessment of the balloon’s intended purpose, and that conditions therefore didn’t allow for constructive dialogue.

The Biden administration has made competition with China a central tenet of its broader national-security strategy. In doing so, it is bearing down on a range of contentious issues, from Taiwan to technology, while expanding its own military presence in the Asia-Pacific to counter Beijing’s rising influence.

Mr. Blinken on Friday reiterated the U.S. government’s confidence that the craft was a Chinese surveillance balloon, calling it “a clear violation of our sovereignty, a clear violation of international law, and clearly unacceptable.”

“We concluded that conditions were not conducive for a constructive visit at this time,” he said in a joint press conference with South Korea Foreign Minister Park Jin. Referring to the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Blinken said, “The PRC’s decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were preparing to have.”

He said that the U.S. was focused on getting the surveillance asset out of U.S. airspace and said it was premature to discuss consequences.

“I can only imagine what the reaction would be in China if they were on the other end,” Mr. Blinken added.

The Pentagon said Friday that the balloon had changed course, was flying east at 60,000 feet over the central U.S. and posed no threat to commercial aviation or to people on the ground. Officials declined to specify its location, but Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall wrote on Twitter that the balloon had been detected over northeastern Kansas. The night before, U.S. officials said the balloon was loitering over Montana, having earlier crossed Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and Canada.

The Pentagon scrambled F-22 jet fighters and at one point considered shooting down the balloon, which one U.S. official described as roughly the size of three school buses, but didn’t over concerns that the debris would pose a risk to people on the ground.

Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said that the balloon bore a payload of surveillance equipment and was expected to drift over the U.S. for a few more days. The Pentagon said it was still reviewing options and wouldn’t say whether it would shoot the balloon down before it leaves U.S. airspace.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that President Biden had first been briefed on the presence of the balloon on Tuesday and had asked the military to present options. All options, she added, remained on the table.

Mr. Biden agreed with the decision to postpone Mr. Blinken’s trip to China, she added, calling it a consensus...