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Chinese spy balloon: Anthony Blinken postpones his visit to China, Beijing “regrets” the “involuntary” entry of the machine into American territory


The United States was quick to react. Following the detection of a Chinese spy balloon in the airspace of the United States, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, decided on Friday February 3 to postpone his visit to China, yet scheduled for this weekend. end, said a US official.

Beijing, for its part, declared « regret[er] » the violation “involuntary” of American airspace by a “civil aircraft [sans pilote] used for research purposes, mainly meteorological”in a press release issued during the day by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Affected by the Westerlies [vents d’ouest] and with limited self-steering capability, the aircraft deviated away from its intended path”, said a spokesperson for the ministry. Which adds: “The Chinese side will continue to communicate with the US side and properly handle this unexpected force majeure situation.” »

Read also: Chinese spy balloon flying over US territory under Pentagon surveillance

Another blow to already strained China-US relations

The decision taken by Mr. Blinken was communicated just hours before the head of American diplomacy left Washington for Beijing. The latter did not want the subject of the ball to dominate his meetings with Chinese officials, ABC News reported. But this announcement represents a new blow to the already strained relations between the United States and China.

Mr. Blinken’s long-awaited meetings with senior Chinese officials planned during this trip, which was organized in November by the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, during of a summit in Indonesia, were to start on Sunday and continue until Monday. They were seen in both countries as a way to find common ground amid major disagreements over Taiwan, human rights, China’s claims to the South China Sea, North Korea, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trade policy and climate change.

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Sensitive sites flown over

According to American officials, the Pentagon has been monitoring this Chinese spy balloon flying at high altitude over United States territory for several days. The latter was reported in Montana, where one of the country’s three nuclear missile silos is located.

“We take steps to protect ourselves against the collection of sensitive information”, a senior US defense official said on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity. He insisted on “the limited added value in terms of information gathering” of the craft described as a fairly large balloon. “We considered it to be large enough for the debris to cause damage” if it was shot in a populated area, he explained.

Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder then clarified that the United States and Canadian Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) was monitoring the movements of the balloon, which however did not present any “military or physical risk to people on the ground”. “Clearly, this balloon is intended for surveillance, and its current trajectory takes it over sensitive sites”continued the first American official.

For its part, the Canadian Department of National Defense said in a press release on Friday that “Canadians are safe”. “Canada is taking steps to ensure the safety of its airspace, including monitoring for a potential second incident”mentions the text.

Le Monde with AP, AFP and Reuters