China-US diplomatic row escalates as Pentagon says second ‘spy balloon’ being pursued | world news


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

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

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

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

US officials previously said that was the case postponed a visit to China by Foreign Minister Antony Blinken after the sighting.

However, a Chinese spokesman said Beijing and Washington had not announced a visit and that “the US announcements are their own business 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 on Foreign Affairs, spoke to Mr Blinken on Friday night and discussed how to deal with random 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 that a second “spy balloon” was being tracked.

He added: “We are seeing reports of a balloon crossing Latin America. We now assume that this is another Chinese surveillance balloon.”

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

In a Friday news conference, the US Department of Defense said the balloon was flying east but posed “no physical or military threat” to civilians.

The Pentagon press secretary declined to confirm the current location of the balloon, which operates at about 60,000 feet.

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

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There is also no evidence of nuclear or radioactive material on board, but Brigadier General Ryder says it can be manoeuvred.

The object is believed to have flown offshore over the Aleutian Islands AlaskaAnd through Canada before entering the United States.

Military and defense 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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