Chinese officials early Saturday continued to downplay the presence of its spy balloon over US soil and urged “both parties to remain calm.”
Without confirming that the balloon is being used for surveillance, Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said in a statement that China “has always strictly followed international law, we do not accept any groundless speculation and hype.
“Faced with unexpected situations, both parties need to keep calm, communicate in a timely manner, avoid misjudgments and manage differences,” she said.
China has denied that the balloon is for spying and instead has claimed that the “airship” was for meteorological research and had been blown off course in what it called “a force majeure” accident.
For the last two days the balloon has been hovering over sensitive sites, including Montana, home to one of the US’ three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The balloon, which Pentagon officials said is “manueverable,” was spotted over Kansas City, Missouri on Friday as it made its way eastward.
President Biden was briefed on the airspace intrusion and initially supported shooting it down, however Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley strongly advised Biden against shooting down the balloon, warning that its size — as big as three school buses — and considerable weight could create a debris field large enough to endanger Americans on the ground.
On Friday night, the Pentagon announced that a second spy balloon had been spotted over Latin America.
“We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement. No additional information about the balloon or its location was available, he said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to leave for China on Friday night but canceled the trip amid the controversy. He said spoke to Wang over the phone on Friday night and said that sending the balloon over the US 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.”
In response, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday morning: “In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any visit. The U.S. making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that.”
With Post wires