Saturday 04 February 2023
Beijing – (dpa):
China has firmly rejected allegations of espionage related to a balloon that drifted into US airspace, as the case puts increasing pressure on already troubled relations between the two countries.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the “surveillance balloon” intrusion into US airspace as “unacceptable” and “irresponsible”.
China on Saturday denied the spying allegations, saying the balloon was a research balloon that had been derailed by “force majeure”.
“We do not accept baseless speculation and excitement,” China’s foreign ministry said Saturday, citing a phone conversation Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had with Blinken the day before.
Blinken canceled his visit to Beijing, which was scheduled for Sunday. This would have been the first visit by a US Secretary of State to China since 2018.
Blinken stressed that the United States wants to keep channels of communication open with Beijing and that the visit should proceed without delay “when conditions permit.”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed that the balloon over the US was used for “meteorological and other scientific research”.
He added, “Because of the drift of westerly winds and because of the limited steering capabilities, the balloon went away from the planned route.”
But the Pentagon did not accept this claim. “We know it’s a surveillance balloon,” said Department of Defense spokesman Pat Ryder.
The Ministry of Defense announced the sighting of the first balloon on Thursday evening. The balloon was spotted over Montana, where 150 ICBMs armed with nuclear warheads are stored at a military base in the North, according to a report.
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