The State Department announced on Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would be delaying his travel to Beijing in light of the recent controversy surrounding a Chinese spy balloon that flew over the U.S.
Blinken was supposed to meet with Chinese officials on 5-6th of February to follow up on President Biden’s meeting with Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping in Bali last November, where Biden pledged to “maintain open lines of communication” with Beijing despite rising tensions between the two countries.
However, that was scuttled after the Pentagon announced Thursday that it had discovered a Chinese airship hovering over Montana, saying it had “very high confidence” the balloon had been sent to the U.S. to collect sensitive information.
Over the past few years, the relations between Washington and Beijing have deteriorated over several points, including trade issues, the Taiwan matter, the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific Ocean line of communication and free movement.
China has apologized for the balloon entering U.S. airspace, describing it as a civilian used for meteorological research and deviating from the planned course. At the same time, the U.S. administration stated that the aircraft was a “high-altitude surveillance balloon”.
As a result, this was considered a “sovereignty violation” and prompted the State Department to postpone Blinken’s visit until “conditions are right,” said an official while briefing a press.