Antony Blinken, the US secretary of State, has spoken to a top Chinese official about his delayed trip to China.
Officials in the USA said that Mr Blinken spoke with Wang Yi, Director of Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi, today postponing the planned trip.
The secretary of state however indicated that he would travel to China “at the earliest possible opportunity, when the conditions permit”.
Officials said that they also “regret” China’s apology, but added that “the presence of the balloon in our airspace constitutes a clear violation both of our sovereignty and international law, and it is unacceptable this has happened.”
After a Chinese surveillance balloon was tracked by US intelligence, diplomatic negotiations ensued.
The US defense department stated today that the Chinese spy balloon was heading eastwards, but does not pose a threat to civilians in a press conference.
The Pentagon’s press secretary did not confirm the location of the balloon at the moment. It is currently operating at approximately 60,000 feet.
According to Brigadier General Pat Ryder, there is no evidence that any radioactive or nuclear material was aboard the ship. However, it can be maneuvered.
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He also rejected Chinese claims the balloon was a “civilian aircraftship” that had entered American airspace.
According to the US authorities, the object was now known to them. It was spotted above Billings, Montana and on Wednesday. It was a Chinese balloon that flew over sensitive areas to collect information.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, has postponed a high profile visit to China that was due to start on Sunday.
Senior officials from the state department described the incident in a “clear violation” of US sovereignty, international law, and stated that Mr. Blinken could not travel because conditions were not right at the moment.
Sky News reports that Mr Blinken was ready to travel for China tonight, but the trip was canceled.
According to officials, he plans to travel “when the conditions permit”.
The Foreign Ministry in Beijing acknowledged that the balloon came from China, but stated it was used for meteorological and scientific research.
A spokesperson for the Pentagon said that it was “monitoring closely the situation and will continue to evaluate options.”
What are spy balloons?
According to the spokesperson, the balloon will likely remain above the US for only a few more days.
US officials confirmed that military intelligence had seen similar surveillance balloons in other places.
It is believed that the object flew over the Aleutian Islands off the coast Alaska and through Canada before entering the USA.
Defense and military leaders considered shooting the balloon from the sky, but they decided against it due the danger of falling debris.
Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, convened a meeting with senior military and defense leaders to discuss the threat profile and possible responses to the balloon. These were presented to Joe Biden the US President on Wednesday.
President Biden refused to answer any questions about the topic when he spoke at a White House conference on jobs earlier today.
The US engaged Chinese officials “with urgency” to communicate the seriousness and gravity of the situation.
China and the USA have been at odds in recent times, with tensions over Taiwan and China’s human rights record as well as its military activities in the South China Sea.