The Macomb Daily

Chinese balloon soars across U.S.; Blinken scraps trip

- By Matthew Lee

A huge, high-altitude Chinese balloon sailed across the U.S. on Friday, drawing severe Pentagon accusation­s of spying despite China’s firm denials. Secretary of State Antony Blinken abruptly canceled a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing U..S.-China tensions.

Fuzzy videos dotted social media sites as people with binoculars and telephoto lenses tried to find the “spy balloon” in the sky as it headed eastward over Kansas and Missouri at 60,000 feet (18,300 meters).

Blinken’s cancellati­on came despite China’s claim that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that had blown off course. The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that the balloon, about the size of two school buses, was not being used for surveillan­ce and had only limited navigation­al ability.

“In light of China’s unacceptab­le action, I am postponing my planned travel to China this weekend,” Blinken said. He had been due to depart Washington for Beijing late Friday.

He said he had told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the U.S. was “an irresponsi­ble act and that (China’s) decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimenta­l to the substantiv­e discussion­s that we were prepared to have.”

The balloon was detected over sensitive military sites in Montana but had moved eastward over the heartland of the central United States during the day and was expected to remain in U.S. airspace for several days, officials said.

The developmen­t marked a new blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years over numerous issues. Still, U.S. officials maintained that diplomatic channels remain open and Blinken said he remained willing to travel to China “when conditions allow.”

“We continue to believe that having open lines of communicat­ion is important,” he said.

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