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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Munich on Saturday and told him the violation of U.S. airspace by China’s high-altitude surveillance balloon must never occur again. 

“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 program — which has intruded into the air space of over 40 countries across 5 continents — has been exposed to the world,” Ned Price, State Department spokesperson said in a statement after the meeting, referring to China by its full name of People’s Republic of China.

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

Effort to east tension

The two met in an undisclosed location in an effort widely seen as an attempt to cool rising tensions between the two countries.  

The meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference is the first face-to-face talk between the two top diplomats since the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon this month. The incident led Blinken to postpone a planned trip to Beijing.      

Earlier Saturday, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told an audience at the Munich Security Conference that she is troubled by the Beijing government’s deepening relationship with Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine. Harris added that the Chinese support for Russia amid its war on Ukraine would undermine rule-based international order.    

Also Saturday, Wang — whose title is director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee — said the U.S. shootdown of the Chinese “airship” is “a clear violation of international practice.”    

“This behavior is unimaginable and borders on hysteria,” Wang told an audience at the Munich Security Conference. “It is 100% an abuse of force.”

‘An irresponsible act’

On February 3, Blinken told Wang via phone that the spy balloon, which drifted across the continental U.S., was “an irresponsible act and a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law that undermined the purpose” of Blinken’s trip. China said it was a weather balloon that strayed off course and later charged that the U.S. has conducted more than 10 balloon flights over China since May 2022. The U.S. has rejected both claims.     

U.S. officials say the Chinese military’s refusal to speak with Pentagon counterparts after the balloon was shot down last week was a dangerous development.   

Senior U.S. officials have said open lines of communication between the two countries are critical to prevent unintended conflicts, particularly in times of tension.    

U.S. officials note they also see the talks as a move to get back to a broader discussion on a range of issues, while the discussion on China’s surveillance balloon operation over U.S. territory is high on the agenda.   

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