The government in Beijing on Saturday refused a US offer for a phone call between Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and his counterpart Wei Fenghe, shortly after the US Air Force shot down a Chinese balloon, the US ministry said on Tuesday (February 7th). of the defense.

"Our commitment to maintain open channels of communication will continue," however, promised General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon's spokesman, after this rejection confirming the deterioration of relations between the two first world powers.

The American army shot down on Saturday, off the coast of South Carolina, this Chinese balloon considered by the Pentagon as a spy balloon, intended to collect sensitive information.

Beijing maintains for its part that it was a civil aerostat, mainly intended to collect meteorological data.

“On Saturday, February 4, just after taking action to bring down the Chinese Communist Party balloon, the (US) Department of Defense submitted a request for a secure call between Minister Austin and the Chinese Secretary of Defense Wei Fenghe,” detailed General Ryder.

"Communication between our armies is especially important at times like these. Alas, the Chinese Communist Party has declined our request," he added.

The Chinese government said on Monday that the United States, by shooting down the Chinese balloon which flew over their territory, had "seriously affected and damaged" relations between the two countries.

On the same day, the United States claimed to have recovered the first debris from the Chinese balloon, including part of the canvas.

According to the Pentagon, the balloon itself was about 60 meters high and carried a kind of basket weighing more than a ton which remains to be recovered.


President Joe Biden made the decision to shoot down the alleged Chinese spy balloon last Wednesday, but the American military had advised him to wait until the craft was over the Atlantic, in American territorial waters.

Joe Biden, who is due to deliver his general policy speech to Congress on Tuesday evening, has been harshly criticized by the Republican opposition, who accuses him of having waited, a sign according to her of the "weakness" of his administration vis-à-vis live in Beijing.

US officials, however, assured that it had provided "a tremendous opportunity to better understand and study" the craft, whose crossing of US territory captivated the country for several days.

The balloon incident forced the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, to postpone Friday in extremis a long-awaited trip to the Chinese capital at the start of the week, intended precisely to appease relations between the two great strategic rivals.

Despite this, the administration of Joe Biden assures that he wants to maintain the dialogue with Beijing and that the visit of Antony Blinken would be rescheduled as soon as the "conditions are met".

With AFP

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