China declines U S phone call after balloon shot down

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WASHINGTON: China has rejected Washington’s request for a telephone call between US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Beijing counterpart Wei Fenghe, The New York Times reported citing Pentagon.

The request was made on Saturday soon after a US fighter aircraft shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

The Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Patrick S Ryder in an emailed statement said that Washington believes in the importance of maintaining communication between the US and China. He said that China has “declined” US’ request to arrange call between Lloyd Austin and Wei Fenghe.

“We believe in the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and the P.R.C. in order to responsibly manage the relationship,” The New York Times quoted General Patrick Ryder as saying in an emailed statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

“Lines between our militaries are particularly important in moments like this,” he added.

As per the news report, General Ryder said, “Unfortunately, the P.R.C. has declined our request” to arrange a call with Wei Fenghe. He stated that the Pentagon will keep trying, according to The New York Times report.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to Beijing that was due to take place last weekend after the balloon was spotted in the American skies. The Chinese balloon was first spotted over Montana, then it traversed the country before it was shot down by US fighter aircraft.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin in a statement on Saturday said that US fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command successfully shot down the high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to China over the water off the coast of South Carolina in US airspace. He said that the balloon which was used by China in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental US was shot down above US territorial waters.

“This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace,” Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

He further said, “The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters.”

Meanwhile, China has said that the electronics-laden machine was a weather balloon that had drifted off its course.However, US administration officials said that the purpose of the balloon was an attempt by China to spy on American military installations. (ANI)

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