US-China Tensions Rise As Secretary Of State Cancels High-Stakes Visit After Suspected Surveillance Balloon Appears Over Montana

Zinger Key Points
  • Blinken was expected to meet top Chinese foreign policy officials and greet President Xi Jinping.
  • Despite growing tensions, U.S.-China trade beat all records in 2022.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is postponing a highly anticipated visit to China in the wake of an alleged surveillance balloon from China being spotted floating above Montana air space.

Pentagon officials said Thursday the balloon is for surveillance and had been tracked for several days, according to CNN.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the airship is from China and it is "a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes."

Read also: US-China Tensions Aggravate: Chinese Chipmakers Bleed As US Sharpens Its Knives

The official message from Chinese authorities is that the non-military vessel flew off course unintentionally due to high-altitude winds.

The State Of US, China Relations:The event has major consequences a a time when U.S.-China relations are fragile.

Blinken's visit would have been the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in over four years since Mike Pompeo visited the country in October 2018.

While President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a three-hour meeting in Bali, Indonesia less than three months ago, 2022 saw several developments that further scarred the relationship between the world's largest superpowers.

Following former President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, the semiconductor industry has become a centerpiece of policy in Biden's presidential term. The U.S. government moved on with several policies meant to hamper China's progress in growing its semiconductor industry and regain control over the manufacture of the most important technological artifacts of our time.

Stuck between it all is Taiwan, home of the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing facilities, and a bone of contention, as China claims sovereignty over the island and Biden vowed to protect it from a Chinese invasion.

Blinken was set to meet Wang Yi, the country's top foreign policy official, and Qin Gang, the former Chinese ambassador to the U.S. who now serves as foreign minister. President Xi Jinping was generally expected to greet Blinken after a failure to meet with Pompeo in 2018 didn't sit well with the former administration.

A senior State Department official told reporters earlier on Friday that conditions are not welcoming to a U.S. official visit to China.

“We have noted the PRC (People’s Republic of China) statement of regret, but 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,” the official told Reuters and other outlets.

The Last Word: Although commercial and military tensions continue to rise, trade by the U.S. and China beat historical records in 2022, being worth $694 billion in imports and exports, according to Bloomberg.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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