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'Spy balloon' in US airspace: China urges for "cool headed" handling of unexpected situation
Beijing: China on Saturday urged for "cool-headed and prudent" handling of the situation arising out of the entry of a Chinese balloon inside US airspace.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday postponed his upcoming visit to Beijing stating the "presence of the surveillance balloon in US airspace is a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law." In its response to Blinken's postponement, China's Foreign Ministry said, "Maintaining contact and communication at all levels is an important common understanding reached by the Chinese and US presidents at their meeting in Bali. One of the tasks of the diplomatic teams on both sides is to properly manage bilateral relations, particularly to manage some unexpected situations in a cool-headed and prudent manner."
"In fact, neither side has ever announced that there would be a visit. It is a matter for the US to make its latest announcement, and we respect that," a Chinese spokesperson said.
The Pentagon said the balloon over the US is being used for surveillance, rejecting China's claim that the aircraft was a "civilian airship" for research that deviated from its course. Meanwhile, on Friday evening the Pentagon said that a second Chinese spy balloon had been spotted floating over Latin America.
"Regarding the unintended entry of a Chinese unmanned airship into US airspace due to force majeure, the Chinese side has verified it and communicated it to the US side. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. This is entirely an unexpected situation caused by force majeure and the facts are very clear," said the Chinese Spokesperson.
The Pentagon said the balloon doesn't present a current threat and the US continues to monitor it as it moves eastward over the central US.
The Chinese foreign ministry in a statement on Saturday said, "We have no intention to violate and have never violated the territory or airspace of any sovereign country. Some politicians and media in the US have hyped it up to attack and smear China. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to that."
US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the suspected Chinese spy balloon as it hovers over the US, including calls with national security team officials, according to a senior administration official, reported CNN.
There was another briefing scheduled for when Biden arrived in Wilmington Friday evening.
The military options President Biden asked for at the start have been maintained and updated as the situation has evolved, the official said, noting that no options had been taken off the table. Biden and national security team officials have discussed options including shooting the balloon down, the official said.
Earlier, the US military had advised against shooting down the balloon due to the risk of falling debris, but the situation could change as the balloon moves towards the East Coast.
The US has been tracking the suspected Chinese spy balloon, which was first spotted in Montana and is believed to be moving eastward.
The Gastonia Police Department in North Carolina is asking residents not to call the police if they see the suspected spy balloon - and to refrain from taking potshots at it.
"If the now infamous Chinese 'weather balloon' makes its way over Gastonia, please don't call the police to report it," the department wrote on Facebook.
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the US Defence Department knows the balloon "has the ability to manoeuvre."
Sources familiar with the matter previously told CNN that the balloon's movement relies primarily on the jet stream. Ryder added on Friday that the balloon "has changed its course which, again, is why we're monitoring it." (ANI)