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Chinese spy balloon undermined high-level visit, says top US diplomat

China's decision to send a surveillance balloon into US airspace undermined a long-planned high-level visit to Beijing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday.

The top diplomat was slated to fly to Beijing for meetings with senior Chinese officials this weekend after US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to the trip during their sit-down in November, but the discovery of the aircraft by the US on Thursday nixed those plans, adding to already frayed US-Sino relations.

"This is an unacceptable as well as an irresponsible action. It's even more irresponsible coming on the eve of a long-planned visit that followed from the meeting between the two presidents in Bali on the margins of the G 20," Blinken told reporters during a news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin.

"And, in our judgment, it created conditions that undermine the very purpose of the trip, including ongoing efforts, as I said, to build a floor under the relationship as well as to address a very broad range of issues that are important to Americans, to Chinese, to the entire world," he added.

Blinken morning phoned China's top official for foreign affairs, Wang Yi, on Friday to formally notify Beijing of the postponement and convey Washington's displeasure directly.

China has since issued a mea culpa for the incident, saying the aircraft is a "civilian airship used for research" that deviated off course and entered US airspace.

Two State Department officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity noted Beijing's statement of regret but said "the presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law. And it is unacceptable that this has occurred."


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