Top US and Chinese officials have held rare talks amid a balloon dispute. Here’s what was said

Key Points
  • United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi met in Munich amid growing tensions.
  • Mr Blinken warned China not to repeat its “irresponsible act” of sending a spy balloon into American airspace.
  • Mr Wang told Mr Blinken that their countries’ relations had been damaged by how Washington reacted to the balloon.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China not to repeat its “irresponsible act” of sending a spy balloon into American airspace, as he held rare talks with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.
The highly anticipated meeting of the two senior officials late on Saturday came on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The US has been in a state of alarm since a huge white balloon from China was spotted over a series of secret nuclear weapons sites, before on 4 February.
The incident led Mr Blinken .
Beijing denies it uses spy balloons and says the craft was for weather research. Subsequently it accused Washington of sending its own espionage balloons over Chinese territory, which the US has denied.
During their encounter on Saturday, Mr 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 that this irresponsible act must never again occur,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“The Secretary made clear the United States will not stand for any violation of our sovereignty,” he added.

He also warned Mr Wang “about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion,” Mr Price said.

Mr Blinken was “very direct and candid” during the talks, which lasted around an hour, according to a senior State Department official.
He was also “quite blunt” as they spoke about Russia, the official said.
In turn, Mr Wang told Mr Blinken that their countries’ relations had been damaged by how Washington reacted to the balloon.

Mr Wang “made clear China’s solemn position on the so-called airship incident” and “urged the US side to change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations,” state news agency Xinhua reported.

US reaction ‘hysterical and absurd,’ China says

Speaking earlier on Saturday at the gathering of world leaders in Munich, Mr Wang had condemned the US reaction to the balloon as “hysterical and absurd”.
Mr Wang said President Joe Biden’s administration had a “misguided” perception of Beijing.
And, he accused the United States of trying to “smear” the Asian giant while Washington itself was implementing policies that ran counter to its paradigms, such as free trade.
“There are many balloons from many countries in the sky. Do you want to down each and every one of them?” Mr Wang said.

“We urge the United States not to do such preposterous things simply to divert attention from its own domestic problems.”

China’s Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich. Source: AAP / Petr David Josek/AP

Asked then if he was planning to meet with the US delegation, Mr Wang had accused Washington of taking a wrong view of China as a serious geopolitical challenge and a threat to the United States.

“This is a misguided perception of China, and with this perception, the United States is using all of its means to smear and clamp down China, and is co-opting other countries to do the same,” he said.
He added that he hoped Washington would “take a pragmatic and proactive attitude” towards China and restore relations to a “track of sound development”.
After four years of antagonistic relations with China under his predecessor Donald Trump, Mr Biden has made a priority of resetting relations with Beijing, which he describes as Washington’s biggest competitor.
But tensions flared last year after Nancy Pelosi, then leader of the US House of Representatives, the self-governing democratic island claimed by Beijing.

Hopes for a reset could be tested again soon, with a high-level Pentagon official arriving in Taiwan for a visit, according to a Financial Times report on Friday.

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