Diplomatic row between China and US escalates as Pentagon says second ‘spy balloon’ being tracked


China has claimed the flight of an “airship” over the US was an accident and accused politicians and the media of taking advantage of the situation.

The US claims the craft is a suspected spy balloon and said it had committed a “clear violation” of US sovereignty.

China insisted it is used for meteorological and other scientific research.

“China has always strictly abided by international law and respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

US officials said earlier that it had postponed a visit to China by Secretary of State Antony Blinken following the sighting.

However, a Chinese spokesperson said Beijing and Washington had not announced any visit and that “the US announcements are their own matter and we respect that”.

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The foreign ministry said in a separate statement that Wang Yi, director of China’s Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, had spoken to Mr Blinken on Friday evening and discussed how to deal with accidental incidents in a calm and professional manner.

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A suspected spy balloon – not the moon

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder confirmed a second “spy balloon” was being tracked.

He added: “We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon.”

US authorities confirmed the initial balloon tracked across the US in recent days was a Chinese surveillance device.

In a news conference on Friday, the US defence department said the balloon is heading eastwards but poses “no physical or military threat” to civilians.

The Pentagon’s press secretary would not confirm the current location of the balloon, which is operating at around 60,000ft.

A map showing where the balloon was spotted and the US's Malmstrom Air Force Base
A map showing where the balloon was spotted and the US’s Malmstrom Air Force Base

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Biden’s response is measured but anchored in reality

There is also no evidence of any nuclear or radioactive material on board but it has the ability to be manoeuvred, according to Brig Gen Ryder.

The object is believed to have flown over the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of Alaska, and through Canada before entering the US.

Military and defence leaders had considered shooting the balloon out of the sky but decided against it due to the safety risk from falling debris.

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