China Trip Changes After “Spy Balloon” Incident

According to the Associated Press, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China at the end of this month. This trip had been postponed by the Biden administration after a Chinese surveillance balloon flew over the United States in February.

U.S. sources informed the AP that on June 18, Blinken would go to Beijing to meet with high-ranking members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including Foreign Minister Qin Gang. A meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is also conceivable but has not been confirmed.

Blinken was supposed to visit China in February after Xi and President Joe Biden agreed to a meeting in Bali last year; however, after a Chinese surveillance balloon was discovered above the continental United States in February, the final hours before Blinken’s departure postponed the trip.

After the spy balloon had flown across the whole United States and was in international waters off the coast of the Carolinas, the Biden administration decided to shoot it down. While President Biden and the State Department have branded the event a significant infringement of American sovereignty, China has disputed that the incident included a spy apparatus and instead accused the United States of exaggerating the situation.

Since then, Beijing has spurned several overtures despite the Biden administration’s apparent desire to repair relations. China has turned off nuclear proliferation discussions with the United States and has declined to meet with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.

President Biden recently expressed concern that the “silly” spy balloon episode might further deteriorate complex relations with China. He implied that the relationship would “thaw very shortly,” which may have been a reference to Blinken’s impending trip to Beijing. 

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, Blinken’s senior deputy for China, visited the country earlier this week on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square tragedy.