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Blinken met with Wang Yi in Munich

Posted by on 2023/02/21. Filed under Breaking News,China,Headline News,International. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

In what U.S. officials described as a confrontational meeting Saturday night with China’s top foreign affairs official in Munich, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned the Chinese that their surveillance balloons flying over the U.S. ‘must not happen again.’

Blinken also warned Beijing against providing “material support” to Russia’s war in Ukraine, a possibility he later said China was now “seriously” considering.

The American account of the meeting, which resumed diplomatic contacts between Washington and Beijing that had been interrupted by the balloon incident, made no mention of how the Chinese official, Wang Yi, responded. But Chinese state media’s brief account of the meeting described an equally heated exchange.

Chinese state media described Wang as saying it was the United States’ responsibility to “resolve the damage caused to China-Us relations by excessive force,” referring to the shooting down of a large Chinese balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

The two accounts of the meeting suggest that two weeks after the balloon incident, both Washington and Beijing are sticking to a tough line. Us officials had clearly hoped the meeting would find a way for Blinken to reschedule his visit to China, which would be the first by a US secretary of state in years. Blinken abruptly canceled a planned visit as Chinese balloons drifted east from Montana.

Notably, neither country mentioned finding a new time for Blinken’s visit. Blinken also told NBC that he spoke “very clearly and very directly” about the balloon incident with Wang Yi, who “made no apology” during the meeting. It is another reminder that Sino-American relations may have reached their lowest point in 50 years, half a century after President Nixon opened a channel of communication with the Chinese leadership.

While President Biden has often said he is eager to build a competitive but conflict-free relationship between the United States and China, many at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of diplomats, intelligence officials and lawmakers, expressed concern that the handling of the balloon incident highlighted the failure of both sides to prevent even a single incident without loss of life from escalating.

Hours before the meeting, Wang spoke at the Munich conference, surprising many Western officials present by reiterating China’s claim that the balloon was a “civilian” research airship blown off course by the wind and calling the US decision to shoot it down “absurd and hysterical”.

Describing Blinken’s message to Wang Yi, the State Department wrote that the US “will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty, the People’s Republic of China’s high-altitude surveillance programme has been exposed to the world, and Chinese balloons have breached the airspace of more than 40 countries on five continents”.

The US Navy and Coast Guard have recovered most of the equipment from the balloon, which has the payload of a small regional airliner, since it was shot down. American officials say they intend to make public the detailed information they have found about the sensors. Officials said it was clear that the balloon was carrying surveillance equipment while it was still in the air, contradicting China’s claim that it was a weather balloon.

China had initially expressed regret over the appearance of the balloon over the United States, calling it a weather blimp that had veered off course. But in the days that followed — especially after the United States military identified and shot down three other aircraft — China’s tone hardened. The United States now acknowledges that the three aircraft were probably harmless.

Wang called the American response “a diversion from our own domestic problems,” said the shooting down of the balloon was “100 percent an abuse of force,” and said the United States had violated international conventions governing airspace.
Despite Wang’s sharp words, Danny Russell, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, an independent research group, said, “The fact that the meeting took place, and that both sides can claim to have expressed their views on the spy balloon, may help both countries put the balloon incident behind them and reschedule Blinken’s visit, which is really the work that needs to be done.”

Wang has been using the Munich conference as a platform to communicate with European leaders and diplomats, telling them that China is ready to strengthen ties with them and to try to play a role in ending the war in Ukraine. Wang Yi said in public remarks on Saturday that China would soon come up with a peace proposal to stop the fighting. But Blinken, speaking at a separate event at the Munich conference, warned against the temptation of a cease-fire, which Russia could use to regroup for a new offensive.

Wang Yi also met with German Chancellor Olli Scholz on the sidelines of the Munich Conference on Saturday. After that, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Twitter that China was “ready to fully resume exchanges with Germany and other European countries in all fields.”

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