The Pentagon reported on Friday that a Chinese spy balloon had been sighted above Latin America, a day after a similar device had been spotted in US airspace, forcing US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a rare trip to Beijing.
The first balloon, according to the Pentagon, is currently travelling east over the centre of the United States and is not being shot down for safety reasons.
Later on Friday, a balloon was reported to be passing through Latin America, according to Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder.
He continued, “We now assess it to be another Chinese surveillance balloon,” without mentioning where it was located specifically.
Moments before Blinken decided to postpone his trip in an effort to defuse tensions between the two nations, China apologised for the first balloon and attributed what it called a civilian airship’s entry into US airspace to winds.
However, the administration of President Joe Biden referred to it as a movable “surveillance balloon”.
Blinken postponed a two-day visit that was scheduled to begin on Sunday because the opposition Republican Party was already on the attack.
Blinken said that he “made plain that the presence of this surveillance balloon in US airspace is a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law, that it’s an irresponsible act” in a phone discussion with senior Chinese official Wang Yi.
However, according to Blinken, he informed Wang that “the United States is dedicated to diplomatic engagement with China and that I plan to visit Beijing when circumstances allow.”
We’re concentrating on getting the surveillance asset out of our airspace, Blinken told reporters.
The two discussed the situation “in a calm and professional manner,” Wang reportedly told the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Wang told Blinken, according to Xinhua, “China is a responsible country and has always fully abided by international law.”
He stated, appealing on both parties to “prevent misjudgments and control divergence,” that “we do not accept any groundless conjecture and sensationalism.”
Blinken would have been the highest-ranking US official to travel to China since October 2018, heralding a warming in relations after years of strained tension under the previous administration of Donald Trump.
Blinken declared last month that he would use the journey to assist set up “guardrails” to keep the relationship from degenerating into a full-blown fight.
The balloon episode was rapidly used by Republican lawmakers, who painted Biden as weak despite the fact that he has mostly upheld and occasionally increased Trump’s hardline policy toward China.
Senator Tom Cotton, a well-known hardliner who had urged Blinken to cancel his trip, tweeted: “President Biden should quit coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists. Bring the balloon down now and use its tech package, which might be an intelligence jackpot.”
Donald Trump continued on his Truth Social social media network, “Shoot down the balloon!”
Chine expresses regret
Beijing eventually acknowledged possession of the “airship” and claimed the wind was to blame for its detour.
According to the statement ascribed to a representative for the foreign ministry, “The blimp is from China and is a civilian airship used for research, mostly meteorological objectives.”
It used the legal word for an event beyond human control, “force majeure,” to describe the inadvertent arrival of the airship into US airspace.
Recently, a US military officer ordered his troops to prepare for war with China.
“I hope I’m mistaken. General Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, stated in a memo that “my gut tells me we will battle in 2025,” adding that the 2024 US elections would also “give Xi a distracted America.”
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