US halts Blinken China visit after spy balloon row
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed a trip to China after a Chinese spy balloon was discovered flying across the US.
Mr Blinken was expected to meet with his Chinese counterpart, and potentially with President Xi Jinping.
The visit would have come amid fraying tensions between the two countries.
China has said the balloon is used for meteorological research and deviated from its route because of bad weather.
A statement from China’s Foreign Ministry said that it “regrets” the incident and will work with the US to resolve the issue.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, a senior state department official said that the conditions were not right for Mr Blinken to visit China, but that another trip would be planned “at the earliest opportunity”.
The official added that Washington planned to maintain “open lines of communication” about the incident, which was described as “a clear violation” of US sovereignty.
While the official said that the US had acknowledged China’s claim about the balloon’s purpose, it stands by the Department of Defense assessment that it was being used for surveillance.
Mr Blinken’s visit was expected to take place on 5 and 6 February.
A US official quoted by the Associated Press said that the decision to abruptly halt the trip was made by Mr Blinken and President Joe Biden.