White House in China Balloon Saga: Blink to postpone travel when the time is right
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Monday that the flight of a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the United States had done nothing to ease already strained relations with Beijing and that the top diplomat Antony Blinken will try to arrange a postponed trip in due course for them to walk.
“No one wants to see a conflict here,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
US Secretary of State Blinken postponed a planned February 5-6 visit to China because the balloon entered US airspace last week. It was shot down by an American fighter jet off the Atlantic coast on Saturday.
U.S. officials will decide when Blinken should try to delay the trip, Kirby said.
Kirby rejected China’s claim that the balloon was for meteorological purposes, saying, “It strains credulity … that this was some kind of weather balloon floating on the winds.”
He said the United States had the opportunity to examine the balloon in the air and officials hope to gather information about its operation by recovering as many components as possible from the Atlantic. This information is likely to be valuable, he said.
The US Coast Guard said Monday it is establishing a temporary containment zone in the waters off Surfside Beach, South Carolina, in the area where the balloon crashed.
Senior US officials have offered to brief people in Donald Trump’s former administration on the details of what the White House is describing as three China balloon flights during Trump’s presidency . American officials said that the flights from above came to light after Trump left office in January 2021 and was succeeded by President Joe Biden.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Susan Heavey and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Grant McCool)