The revelation comes as tensions between Beijing and Washington have been on the rise. On Thursday, the Defense Department said the U.S. military was expanding its presence in the Philippines, as part of what military analysts said was an effort to constrain China’s armed forces and bolster the United States’ ability to defend Taiwan.
The Biden administration has aggressively moved to check China’s ability to further its technological and military ambitions, drawing fiery rebukes from Beijing. The Russian invasion of Ukraine — and what U.S. officials view as China’s permissive stance toward it — has also strained relations. But by far the most fraught issue between the two powers is Taiwan.
Mr. Blinken has rallied allies and partners to denounce China’s actions in Taiwan. At the same time, he is a proponent of Mr. Biden’s goal of keeping open channels of communication with China to avoid a deterioration of the relationship.
Lawmakers were swift to call for the Biden administration to forcefully counter any threat.
“China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, said in a Twitter post.
In a joint statement, Representatives Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois, said, “The Chinese Communist Party should not have on-demand access to American airspace.” The two added that the incident showed that the China threat “is not confined to distant shores — it is here at home, and we must act to counter this threat.”
On the ground in Montana, Jeffrey Sherlock, a retired state district court judge in Helena, agreed that the balloon was a “provocative” move. But he also expressed wonder that the Chinese would have been interested in his part of the country.
“I can’t believe they are spying on Billings, Mont.,” he said. “There’s not much there.”
Edward Wong and Julian Barnes contributed reporting from Washington, Mike Ives from Seoul and Jim Robbins from Helena, Mont.