The “spy balloon” controversy remains a stumbling block in relations between Beijing and Washington, the paper claims
China is refusing to fix a new date for a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken due to concerns that Washington might, during the trip, publish the results of a probe into a suspected spy balloon incident, the Financial Times has reported, citing sources.
Blinken was scheduled to arrive in China in early February, but the Biden administration decided to postpone the visit after a Chinese high-altitude balloon was spotted in US airspace. Washington ordered the aircraft to be shot down, claiming it had been spying on defense facilities. China insisted it was merely a meteorological device blown off course by the wind.
The sides have been unable to reach an agreement on a new date for Blinken’s arrival, as the Chinese authorities want clarity on what the US is planning to do with the results of an investigation by the FBI, which has been studying the debris of the destroyed balloon, the FT reported on Saturday.
China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang discussed the situation surrounding the balloon with American officials attending the China Development Forum in Beijing in March, “people familiar with the meeting” told the outlet.
Qin reportedly described the FBI probe as yet another example of issues that have made it hard to stabilize China-US ties.
The FT cited the spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, who said Beijing “cannot but seriously question the independence, openness and transparency of the so-called investigation.” According to Liu, the Chinese side is “firmly opposed to the US continuously making use of the [balloon] incident for political purposes and hyping up the ‘China threat’.”
The FBI and US National Security Council have so far been reluctant to say whether the results of the probe will be made public or not.
The balloon incident is not the only issue clouding relations between Washington and Beijing, which appear to be at their lowest point since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1979. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meetings with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other US lawmakers on American soil earlier this month are yet another reason why Blinken’s visit to China remains held up, the sources told the FT.
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Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, but never officially declared independence from China. Beijing considers the island to be a part of its territory and vigorously opposes contacts between Taipei and Washington, which supports the Taiwanese push for sovereignty and has promised to protect the island militarily.
April 15, 2023 at 04:04PM