Top US, China diplomats meet amid tensions over balloon

AP , Saturday 18 Feb 2023

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Saturday with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in the first high-level contact between the two countries since the U.S. shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon two weeks ago, a senior U.S. official said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China s top diplomat Wang Yi
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China's top diplomat Wang Yi


Blinken and Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party’s most senior foreign policy official, held the talks in Munich, where they were attending an international security conference, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity before an official announcement of the meeting.

Blinken warned China's diplomat that the incident "must never again occur", a US official said.

He also warned Wang "about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion", said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

U.S. Secretary of State had canceled a trip to Beijing earlier this month due to the balloon incident, which has become a major issue of contention between the two countries. A meeting in Germany had been widely anticipated.

Earlier Saturday, Wang had renewed Beijing's criticism of the United States for shooting down what Washington says was a Chinese spy balloon, arguing that the move did not point to U.S. strength.

Beijing insists the white orb shot down off the Carolina coast was just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds and had only limited “self-steering” capabilities.

Wang, the director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, repeated that insistence in a speech at the conference and accused the U.S. of violating international legal norms in destroying the object with a missile fired from an U.S. fighter jet.

“The actions don’t show that the U.S. is big and strong, but describe the exact opposite,” Wang said.

Wang also accused the U.S. of denying China’s economic advances and seeking to impede its further development.

“What we hope for from the U.S. is a pragmatic and positive approach to China that allows us to work together,” Wang said.

His comments came shortly before an address to the conference by Vice President Kamala Harris, who didn't mention the balloon controversy or respond to Wang's comments. She stressed the importance of upholding the “international rules-based order.”

She said Washington is “troubled that Beijing has deepened its relationship with Moscow since the war began” in Ukraine and that “looking ahead, any steps by China to provide lethal support to Russia would only reward aggression, continue the killing and further undermine a rules-based order.”

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