U.S. Markets open in 8 hrs 42 mins

China declined U.S. request for phone call between defense chiefs -Pentagon

WASHINGTON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - China has declined a U.S. request for a phone call between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Pentagon submitted the request for a secure call on Saturday, immediately after shooting down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, the PRC (China) has declined our request. Our commitment to open lines of communication will continue," Ryder said. (Reporting by Eric Beech and Rami Ayyub)