The below article was published by ABC, photo credit: Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP
WASHINGTON (TND) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday postponed an upcoming diplomatic trip to China a day after a Chinese balloon was spotted flying at high altitude over Montana, according to multiple reports.
Montana is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke criticized President Joe Biden and his administration for their response to the situation. He said he thinks the United States should open fire on the balloon.
Shoot. It. Down. The Chinese spy balloon is clear provocation. In Montana we do not bow. We shoot it down. Take the shot,” Zinke noted in a tweet.
I’d pull the trigger if they let me,” Zinke added in a separate tweet.
KECI reached out to the governor’s office for comment.
“I received an informational briefing yesterday on the situation involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over Montana. From the spy balloon to the Chinese Communist Party spying on Americans through TikTok to CCP-linked companies buying American farmland, I’m deeply troubled by the constant stream of alarming developments for our national security,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said.
In a statement, China confirmed the balloon is theirs. Chinese officials claimed it is a research balloon that was pushed off course due to the wind.
The airship is from China,” according to the statement. “It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure. The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure.”
The U.S. has described it as a surveillance satellite.
The decision to postpone the trip was made just hours before Blinken had been due to depart Washington for Beijing and marked a new blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations. The official said Blinken and President Joe Biden determined it was best not to proceed with the trip at this time.
Meanwhile, Uyghur organizations are planning to hold a protest outside the White House “to demand urgent action against China’s human rights abuses in East Turkistan (renamed Xinjiang).”
A news release notes the East Turkistan Government in Exile and the East Turkistan National Movement “are calling on the United States government to take immediate steps to end China’s campaign of genocide and occupation in East Turkistan.”
The event aims to draw attention to the ongoing oppression of the Uyghur people, which includes extrajudicial detention, torture, forced labor, sterilization, and other grave violations of international law,” according to the statement. “China has also been using advanced surveillance technologies to monitor Uyghurs living inside and outside East Turkistan.”
The protest is scheduled for Sunday in front of the White House at Lafayette Park from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The event will also be livestreamed on Facebook.