Chinese spy balloon a 'clear violation' -Blinken

STORY: BLINKEN: "In light of China's unacceptable action I am postponing my planned travel this weekend to China."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his visit to China was on hold, a trip that had been expected to start on Friday, as a suspected Chinese spy balloon floated across the United States.

BLINKEN: "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're confident this is a Chinese surveillance balloon." // "The presence of the 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." 

Officials said military leaders considered shooting the balloon down over Montana on Wednesday, but declined due to the safety risk from falling debris. 

China earlier expressed regret that what it called a "civilian airship had strayed into U.S. territory after being blown off course."

On Friday, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said the balloon had changed course and was now floating eastward at about 60,000 feet and demonstrated a capability to maneuver... but he would not go into specifics. 

REPORTER: "...But does the public not have the right to know..." 

RYDER: "The public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky and see where the balloon is."

Ryder said the balloon was at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and did not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. 

Blinken said he was not going to put a date on when he might go to China and the focus was on resolving the current incident. 

“The most important thing right now, in the moment, is to see that this surveillance asset gets out of our airspace, and we'll take it from there."

The trip delay is a blow to those on both sides who saw it as an overdue opportunity to stabilize an increasingly fractious relationship with China. The last visit by a U.S. secretary of state was in 2017.