- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China.
- The high-level discussion took place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
- Blinken hastily canceled a rare trip to China as a result of the incident.
MUNICH: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China not to repeat its “irresponsible act” of sending a spy balloon into American airspace, as he held rare talks late Saturday with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.
The high-level discussion took place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, amid rising tensions between Washington and China.
Since a giant white balloon from China was sighted over a series of secret nuclear weapons locations before being shot down close off the east coast on February 4, the US has been on high alert.
Blinken hastily canceled a rare trip to China as a result of the incident.
Beijing denies using spy balloons, claiming the equipment was used for weather research. Following that, it accused Washington of deploying espionage balloons above Chinese territory, which the US rejected.
During their meeting on Saturday, Blinken “directly spoke to the unacceptable violation of US sovereignty and international law by (China’s) high-altitude surveillance balloon in US territorial airspace, emphasizing that this irresponsible act must never be repeated,” according to a State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“The Secretary made clear the United States will not stand for any violation of our sovereignty,” he added.
He also warned Wang “about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion”, Price said.
Very direct and candid
Blinken was “very direct and candid” during the talks, which lasted around an hour, according to a senior State Department official.
He was also “quite blunt” as they spoke about Russia, the official said.
In turn, Wang told Blinken that their countries’ relations had been damaged by how Washington reacted to the balloon.
Wang “made clear China’s solemn position on the so-called airship incident”, and “urged the US side to change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations,” state news agency Xinhua reported.
Speaking earlier Saturday at the gathering of world leaders in Munich, Wang had condemned the US reaction to the balloon as “hysterical and absurd”.
Wang made typically harsh words against Washington, claiming that President Joe Biden’s administration has a “misguided” view of China.
And he accused the US of attempting to “smear” the Asian giant while enacting policies that contradicted its ideals, such as free trade.
“There are many balloons from many countries in the sky. Do you want to down each and every one of them?” Wang said.
“We urge the United States not to do such preposterous things simply to divert attention from its own domestic problems.”
Asked then if he was planning to meet with the US delegation, Wang had accused Washington of taking a wrong view of China as a serious geopolitical challenge and a threat to the United States.
“This is a misguided perception of China, and with this perception, the United States is using all of its means to smear and clamp down China and is co-opting other countries to do the same,” he said.
Instead, Wang accused the US of “100% protectionism, 100 percent self-servings, and 100 percent unilateral action” in its own economic policies, such as the Chips Act, which allocates billions of dollars for semiconductor subsidies and research.
He added that he hoped Washington would “take a pragmatic and proactive attitude” towards China and restore relations to a “track of sound development”.
Don’t make the same mistake
Following four years of adversarial relations with China under his predecessor, Donald Trump, Biden has made reestablishing relations with Beijing, which he regards as Washington’s main opponent, a priority.
Yet, tensions erupted last year when Nancy Pelosi, then-leader of the United States House of Representatives, visited Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island claimed by China.
According to a Financial Times report Friday, a high-level Pentagon official would visit Taiwan soon, putting hopes for a reset to the test.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also led Western powers to cast a watchful eye on the connections between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping, who call each other “friends”.
Also in Munich, US Vice President Kamala Harris underlined how Washington was “troubled that Beijing has deepened its relationship with Moscow since the war began”.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said, “Beijing is watching closely to see the price Russia pays or the reward it receives for its aggression.”
“What is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow,” he warned.
Stoltenberg also stated that Moscow’s attack highlighted the risks of Europe’s over-reliance on authoritarian regimes. He said that it should serve as a lesson as the continent sought relations with China.
“We should not make the same mistake with China and other authoritarian regimes.”
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