“The Secretary made clear the United States will not stand for any violation of our sovereignty, and that the PRC’s high-altitude surveillance balloon programme — which has intruded into the air space of over 40 countries across 5 continents —has been exposed to the world,” the statement said.
Analysts said the fact that the two met relatively soon after the Chinese balloon was shot down by a US fighter jet – the meeting reportedly lasted about an hour at an undisclosed location – was a good sign, suggesting both sides had an interest in stabilising strained relations.
Blinken underscored to Wang that the US is not looking for a “new Cold War” but violation of US sovereignty by the Chinese airborne vehicle must never be repeated.
Wang, China’s former foreign minister, now heads the office of the Communist Party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission and is the top foreign affairs aide to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In a terse, two-paragraph statement Saturday, China’s official Xinhua news agency acknowledged the meeting took place “at the request of the US side” and that Wang expressed Beijing’s “solemn position” on the balloon incident during the talks.
Wang “urged the US to change course, face up to and resolve the damage caused to US-China relations by the abuse of force” in shooting down the vessel, the statement added.
During the meeting, Blinken reaffirmed there had been no change to the long-standing US One-China policy and underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Wang did not apologise in the meeting for the Chinese balloon incident, Blinken said in an interview with NBC News. The meeting came hours after Wang, in a presentation at the European conference, sharply criticised the US over its handling of the crisis, accusing Washington of “prejudice and ignorance”
“This is, I would say, absurd and hysterical,” Wang said, adding the “preposterous” moves by the US simply aimed to “divert attention from its domestic problems”.
The two senior officials also discussed the war in Ukraine on the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s invasion. Blinken warned about “implications and consequences” if China provides material support to Russia or helps Moscow to systemically evade sanctions, the State Department said.
Just met with the PRC’s top diplomat, Wang Yi. I condemned the incursion of the PRC surveillance balloon and stressed it must never happen again. I warned China against providing materiel support to Russia. I also emphasized the importance of keeping open lines of communication.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 18, 2023
Blinken also condemned North Korea’s test on Saturday of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a destabilising move that called for responsible global powers to respond, he added, without detailing what form that might take.
The Chinese balloon, which appeared over the US West Coast in late January, was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on February 4 after crossing the North American continent. This sparked a diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing just as the two countries were making efforts to ease tensions by resuming senior-level dialogues on several fields.
The US said the balloon was a spy craft, part of a surveillance programme China has developed over years and used against some 40 countries. Beijing characterised it as a civilian device for meteorological observations, criticising Washington for “overreacting” by downing it.
Blinken postponed his trip to China on February 3, notifying Wang in a phone call soon after Beijing acknowledged ownership of the vessel.
His trip, a follow-up to the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in Indonesia in November, was intended to “build a floor” under the Washington-Beijing relationship and help prevent the two powers from veering into a conflict. Blinken did not reschedule the trip in his talks with Wang, NBC reported.
Instead, the US Commerce Department last week blacklisted six Chinese entities involved with building the balloon. The Chinese commerce ministry countered this week by putting two US military suppliers on its “unreliable entity list” – its first use of the sanction tool – even as it claimed the move was not related to the balloon saga.
China accused the US of having sent more than 10 high-altitude balloons illegally into Chinese airspace since last year, including Xinjiang and Tibet, but the Biden administration rejected that claim.
Biden administration officials have repeatedly cited the importance of communication with their Chinese counterparts, making it clear they hoped to put back the trip back on schedule when conditions allowed. But analysis of the downed balloon, currently being conducted by the FBI, could provide embarrassing disclosures about any Chinese espionage activities.
Biden said on Thursday that he expected to speak with Xi to “get to the bottom” of the balloon incident, without giving a date, adding that he would “make no apologies” for the balloon’s downing by an F-22 fighter jet.
After Biden extended an olive branch to Beijing with his offer this week of further talks with Chinese counterparts, China urged Washington to repair the damage done to bilateral ties.
“China stands for more dialogue between the two countries at all levels,” Xu Xueyuan, Beijing’s chargé d’affaires in the US, said in an opinion piece in The Washington Post on Friday.
“We sincerely hope that the United States will work with China and not allow a wandering balloon to lead the bilateral relationship astray,” she wrote.