Blinken meets Wang Yi in Munich for first time after balloon incident
This marks the first in-person meeting between US and Chinese officials since the shoot-down of the Chinese balloon earlier this month.
A US State Department spokesperson has confirmed on Saturday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany, marking the first in-person meeting between US and Chinese officials since the shoot-down of the Chinese balloon earlier this month.
Wang called out the US' mishandling of the fiasco as “absurd and hysterical” and “100% an abuse of the use of force", adding that he considered that the Biden administration has a "misguided" perception of Beijing, accusing Washington of trying to "smear" the Asian giant.
"There are many balloons from many countries in the sky. Do you want to down each and every one of them?" he asked, urging the US "not to do such preposterous things simply to divert attention from its own domestic problems."
Read next: Trump officials saw previous balloons, did not notify White House
This follows Blinken's postponement of his visit to China after the downed balloon headlined global news, as coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby assured that this was not the time to destabilize relations with China. Beijing denies it uses spy balloons and says the craft was for weather research. It accused Washington of sending its own espionage balloons over its territory -- which the US has denied.
The last time the two nations came face-to-face was when US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met at the G20 summit in November. Just last Thursday, Biden shared his intentions to discuss the balloon incident with Xi but will not apologize for shooting it down. “I hope we are going to get to the bottom of this, but I make no apologies for taking down that balloon,” he said.
Wang, who serves as Xi’s top foreign policy adviser, is expected to visit Russia after the Munich conference this month as a demonstration of China's efforts to bolster ties with Russia while maintaining a balanced diplomatic face with the West, which went rocky after the war in Ukraine broke out.
China refused to condemn Russia or partake in the sanctions against it as it continues to collaborate with the Russian military in drills while simultaneously enhancing its trade and fuel purchases from Russia.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin relayed that the diplomat's visit to Russia will serve as a chance for both nations to “exchange views” on “international and regional hotspot issues of shared interest”, namely the war in Ukraine. However, it was not specified nor confirmed whether he would be convening with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“China is ready to take this visit as an opportunity and work with Russia to promote steady growth of bilateral relations in the direction identified by the two heads of state, defend the legitimate rights and interests of both sides, and play an active role for world peace," Wang Wenbin said.
Putin has already sent an invitation to Xi during an end-of-year call but China’s Foreign Ministry is yet to confirm any future plans.
Read more: Xi, Putin affirm China-Russia cooperation amid sanctions on Russia