The suspected Chinese balloon seen over Billings, Montana
The suspected Chinese balloon seen over Billings, MontanaChase Doak/via REUTERS

China declined a request for a phone call between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe after Washington brought down a Chinese spy balloon, a Pentagon spokesperson said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The Pentagon submitted the request for a secure call on Saturday after the balloon came down, Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, the PRC (China) has declined our request. Our commitment to open lines of communication will continue," Ryder said.

A US Air Force fighter jet shot down the balloon off the South Carolina coast on Saturday, a week after it first entered US airspace.

China later said it is “strongly discontented” with the US downing of its surveillance balloon, adding it reserves the right for any necessary reaction to the incident.

The decision to down the balloon came a day after the Pentagon ruled out doing so, saying that "any potential debris field would be significant" and could cause "civilian injuries or deaths or significant property damage”.

The balloon caused a political uproar in Washington and prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a Sunday-Monday tip to Beijing.

The White House has downplayed any drastic effect the incident would have on US-China relations.

President Joe Biden told reporters on Monday that it was always his view that the balloon needed to be shot down "as soon as it was appropriate."

Asked if the balloon incident weakens US-China relations, Biden replied, "No. We made it clear to China what we're going to do. They understand our position. We're not going to back off."