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Top US, Chinese diplomats hold talks amid 'spy balloon' spat

February 19, 2023

US Secretary of State Blinken told top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi that such an incident "must never occur again." Wang said the US used "excessive force" when shooting down the balloon.

Antony Blinken and Wang Yi during the foreign ministers meeting of G20 economies in Bali, Indonesia last year
The two top diplomats do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to the balloon and President Joe Biden's decision to shoot it downImage: Stefani Reynolds/AP/picture alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China's top diplomat Wang Yi met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

It was the first high-level meeting of US and Chinese officials since a spat erupted between Washington and Beijing over a Chinese balloon shot down by the United States.


The meeting took place at an undisclosed location away from the media, the US State Department said in a statement. A meeting in Germany between the officials had been widely anticipated.

Blinken says incident 'must never occur again,' Beijing urges US to change course

State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Blinken "directly spoke to the unacceptable violation of US sovereignty and international law by (China's) high-altitude surveillance balloon in US territorial airspace, underscoring this irresponsible act must never occur again."

Blinken also warned about "the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion," Price added.

Blinken 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.

US-China: What’s behind the growing tensions?

The US said it shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon on February 4 that floated across the continental airspace, while Beijing insists it was a civilian airship meant for scientific research. 

China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported that Wang "made clear China's solemn position on the so-called airship incident."

Wang "urged the US side to change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations," Xinhua reported.

Wang calls downing balloons an overreaction

Earlier on Saturday, Wang said at the Munich Security Conference that the US response of shooting balloons down was "hysterical and absurd."

"There are many balloons from many countries in the sky. Do you want to down each and every one of them?" Wang said.

Wang accused the US of having a "misguided perception" of Beijing, saying they hoped relations would return to a "track of sound development." 

Biden hopes to speak with Xi soon 

US President Joe Biden addressed the spat in remarks earlier this week, saying he makes "no apologies for taking down that balloon."

Biden said he expected to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon over the alleged spy balloon incident.

rm/sms, wd (Reuters, AFP, dpa) 

Correction: An earlier version of this article said Wang Yi was China's foreign minister. He was recently promoted from foreign minister to the more senior position of Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, making him China's top diplomat.