EXCERPT from REMARKS
ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN ROOM
FEBRUARY 3, 2023
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The Republic of Korea is a vital and longstanding strategic partner, and I’m particularly grateful to have such a close friend in Jin to bring this alliance between our countries even closer. Before I talk about the productive discussions that we had today and the agreement we just signed – Jin, if you’ll allow me – I’d just like to briefly address the presence of the Chinese surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace.
I spoke this morning with Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi to convey that in light of China’s unacceptable action, I am postponing my planned travel this weekend to China. As you know, President Biden and President Xi agreed during their meetings in Bali in November that I would travel to Beijing to follow up on their discussions. We’ve been working across the U.S. Government to prepare for a substantive set of discussions on issues that matter to the American people and to people around the world. And we’ve been engaging for some time with our counterparts in Beijing to prepare for these meetings.
Yesterday, the Department of Defense announced that we had detected and were tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that remains over the continental United States. We continue to track and monitor the balloon closely. We’re confident this is a Chinese surveillance balloon. Once we detected the balloon, the U.S. Government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.
We communicated with the PRC Government directly through multiple channels about this issue. Members of my team consulted with our partners in other agencies and in Congress. We also engaged our close allies and partners to inform them of the presence of the surveillance balloon in our airspace. We concluded that conditions were not conducive for a constructive visit at this time.
In my call today with Director Wang Yi, I made clear that the presence of this surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace is a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law, that it’s an irresponsible act, and that the PRC’s decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have. I told Director Wang that the United States remains committed to diplomatic engagement with China and that I plan to visit Beijing when conditions allow.
In the meantime, the United States will continue to maintain open lines of communication with China, including to address this ongoing incident. Indeed, that’s why we need direct and regular communications in the first place, and that’s why it’s critical that such lines remain open at all times to help avoid miscalculation and conflict.
One final but important note. The world expects the United States and China to manage our relationship responsibly. And indeed, addressing many of today’s global challenges – challenges that affect the lives of our people and people around the world – demands that we find a way to work together as well. The United States will continue to act in a way that reflects that responsibility. We look to our PRC counterparts to do the same.