Blinken postpones trip to China as balloon flies over U.S.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed a planned high-stakes weekend diplomatic trip to China as the Biden administration weighs a broader response to the discovery of a high-altitude Chinese balloon flying over sensitive sites in the western United States, two diplomatic sources tell CBS News.

The decision came despite China's claim that the balloon was a weather research satellite that had blown off course. The U.S. has described it as a surveillance satellite.

The trip was called off just hours before Blinken was due to depart Washington for Beijing and heightened the strain on U.S.-Chinese relations. On Friday morning, Blinken told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, that the trip would need to be postponed, but he intends to visit at a future date.

By Friday morning, the balloon was no longer over Montana but had moved over the Midwest, according to a U.S. official. It's not going to run out of fuel, since it has solar panels. The official also said that the balloon steers by rudder and is corkscrewing around to slow its progress over land, but the jet stream continues to move it on a trajectory across the U.S. The Pentagon is still considering ways to "dispose" of it but has "grave concerns" about the damage it would cause if it fell to earth. U.S. government lawyers regard this as a violation of U.S. air space.

Blinken's long-anticipated meetings with senior Chinese officials had been seen in both countries as a way to find some areas of common ground amid major disagreements over Taiwan, human rights, China's claims in the South China Sea, North Korea, Russia's war in Ukraine, trade policy and climate change.

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