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China says balloon over western US 'civilian airship'

The Biden administration appears unconvinced with the response.

Published: February 3, 2023 10:44am

Updated: February 3, 2023 12:05pm

China said Friday the balloon spotted over western U.S. airspace is a "civilian airship" used for weather research that blew off course, amid concerns among U.S. officials it is a spying craft.

The Biden administration appears unconvinced with the response, with Secretary of State Tony Blinken hours later cancelling his planned weekend diplomatic trip to Beijing, amid escalating tensions between the world's two biggest economic powerhouses.

The Pentagon decided not to shoot down the balloon, which was potentially flying over sensitive sites, because of concerns of falling equipment hurting people on the ground, according to the Associated Press

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the balloon was a civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research. The ministry said the airship has limited “self-steering” capabilities and “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds, the wire service also reports.

"The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure," also said China, using the legal term that refer to events beyond one’s control.

Among the United States' other concerns with China are its governing of Taiwan and the Communist-led country's efforts to control the South China Sea and alleged human rights violations.

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