China urges calm over ‘spy’ balloon in US airspace

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China has urged “cool-headed” handling of a dispute over a giant Chinese balloon heading for the eastern US.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier called off a visit to Beijing, saying the “surveillance” balloon’s presence was “an irresponsible act”.

Later the US reported a second Chinese balloon floating over Latin America.

China expressed regret over the balloon over the US, saying it was a weather airship that had been blown astray. It was last spotted over Missouri.

It is expected to reach America’s east coast near the Carolinas this weekend.

The US has decided not to shoot down the high-altitude airship due to the danger of falling debris.

The incident comes amid fraying tensions between the US and China.

In a statement on Saturday, the Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing “never violated the territory and airspace of any sovereign country”.

It said its senior foreign policy official Wang Yi had discussed the incident with Mr Blinken over the phone, stressing that maintaining communication channels at all levels was important, “especially in dealing with some unexpected situations in a calm and reliable manner”.

It added that Beijing “would not accept any groundless conjecture or hype” and accused “some politicians and media in the United States” of using the incident “as a pretext to attack and smear China.”

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