“Contacts” with Beijing
US and China discuss ‘high-altitude balloon’ for the first time
02/13/2023, 06:50 am
After the launch of a spy balloon, Beijing declined a phone call with the US Secretary of Defense – citing the US’s “seriously erroneous approach”. Only ten days later did the Americans report an exchange with the People’s Republic.
The United States communicated with China about the case for the first time almost ten days ago after the launch of a suspected spy balloon. Deputy Secretary of Defense Melissa Dalton announced that there had been “contacts with the People’s Republic of China because of the high-altitude balloon”. She did not provide any information on who was involved in the contact or what it contained.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had unsuccessfully requested a meeting with the Chinese defense minister after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over the US for days and was eventually shot down by a US fighter jet off the US east coast.
Beijing confirmed on Thursday that it had declined a phone call to Austin after the balloon was launched. “The US’s irresponsible and seriously erroneous approach has not created a suitable atmosphere for dialogue and exchanges between the two armies,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said.
Whole fleet of spy balloons
The day-long overflight of the Chinese balloon over the United States had led to a scandal between Washington and Beijing. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to China at short notice. A US fighter jet shot down the balloon over the Atlantic on February 4th on the US east coast when the balloon was no longer over the mainland.
Washington said on Wednesday that the downed balloon was one of a fleet of spy balloons that flew across five continents. In the past few days, three more mysterious flying objects had been shot down over the USA and Canada.
After discovering the balloon, China denied the allegation of espionage. Instead, Beijing spoke of a civil balloon for meteorological purposes that had gone off course. US officials have meanwhile firmly rejected this account several times and affirmed that it was a question of a spy balloon.