Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, met with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, on Saturday in Munich in the first senior-level contact between the two countries since the American military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on 4 February.
In a tweet on Saturday, Blinken 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.”
Blinken continued: “I warned China against providing material support to Russia. I also emphasized the importance of keeping open lines of communication.”
In an interview with NBC scheduled to be aired on Sunday, Blinken said the US had not overreacted in shooting down the balloon, and added that there was no doubt that the device’s aim was to carry out surveillance activities, Reuters reported.
Blinken echoed the same sentiments in an interview with CBS’s Face The Nation on Saturday, adding that it was important for the two countries to maintain open lines of communication.
“This is why it was also useful to have this meeting this evening, also important to have these direct lines of communication, to make sure that … we are talking to engage in diplomacy. We have to manage this relationship responsibly. We have to make sure that the competition that we’re clearly engaged in does not veer into conflict, into a new cold war,” Blinken said.
“It’s not in our interest … But at the same time, we will very resolutely stand up for our interests. We will resolutely stand up for our values,” he added.
Blinken also said that he had “tried to impress upon [his] Chinese counterpart the importance” of having military-to-military lines of communication.
The balloon crisis triggered diplomatic fallout between the US and China, prompting Blinken to postpone a trip to Beijing soon after the balloon was discovered floating over sensitive intercontinental ballistic missile launch sites in Montana.
Wang on Saturday criticized the US and accused it of violating international norms after an American fighter jet shot down the balloon two weeks earlier. China has denied claims that the balloon was used for surveillance purposes and maintains that it was a civilian research aircraft that was blown off course.
“To have dispatched an advanced fighter jet to shoot down a balloon with a missile, such behavior is unbelievable, almost hysterical,” Wang said, according to Reuters.
“There are so many balloons all over the world, and various countries have them, so is the United States going to shoot all of them down?” he said. He added: “We ask the US to show its sincerity and correct its mistakes, face up and resolve this incident, which has damaged Sino-US relations.”
On Thursday, Joe Biden said that the three aerial objects he ordered shot down over Lake Huron, the Yukon and Alaska on successive days between 10 February and 12 February were not related to China’s surveillance program.
Searches for remnants of the objects in Michigan and Alaska have been called off, according to US officials. Balloon hobbyists in northern Illinois indicated that one of the stray unidentified flying objects could have belonged to their group before it was shot down.
“Nothing right now suggests [the objects] were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country,” Biden told reporters.
He added: “The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”