Blinken Warns China Against Providing Aid To Russia, Says Balloon Surveillance Must "Never Again Occur" As Beijing Slams "Excessive Use Of Force", Offers "No Apology"
In the aftermath of the recent Hullaballon fiasco, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China’s top diplomat on Saturday that the U.S. will not tolerate violations of its airspace after a Chinese spy balloon flew over North America, but received no apologies from Beijing.
According to Politico, Blinken met with Wang Yi, director of China’s Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in what was the administration’s first face-to-face meeting with the Chinese government since a balloon was discovered earlier this month and subsequently downed by the U.S. military off the coast of South Carolina.
According to a State Department readout of the meeting, Blinken “directly spoke to the unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law” by the Chinese surveillance balloon “underscoring that this irresponsible act must never again occur.” Blinken later told NBC’s Chuck Todd in an interview after the meeting that Wang offered “no apology” for the incident.
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
Separately, Blinken also warned Beijing about “implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion,” as Moscow wages war against Ukraine. In the same NBC interview, Blinken said that he is "very concerned that China is considering providing lethal support to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine and I made clear that that would have serious consequences in our relationship."
Blinken told Yi that the US had information China was considering whether to give Russia assistance, possibly including guns and weapons, for the war in Ukraine. The US has warned China since the start of the invasion a year ago not to do so.
“The concern that we have now is, based on information we have, that they’re considering providing lethal support,” Blinken told CBS’s “Face the Nation” shortly after he met with Wang. “And we’ve made very clear to them that that could cause a serious problem for us and in our relationship.”
In response, Wang slammed the Biden administration’s destruction of the balloon and urged the U.S. to “change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-U.S. relations,” according to a statement published by Chinese state media. The statement described the controversy as the “so-called airship incident” in an apparent effort to belittle the U.S. reaction that has included a widening bipartisan uproar about what both a House and a Senate resolution have declared was a “brazen violation” of U.S. sovereignty.
Earlier at the conference, Wang said China would release a new peace proposal for Ukraine in the coming days that would be in keeping with previous efforts by President Xi Jinping. He condemned attacks on nuclear power stations.
“We oppose attacks on nuclear power stations, attacks on civilian nuclear facilities,” Wang said. “We have to work to prevent nuclear proliferation and nuclear disasters.”
The initial response was cautious. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock welcomed China’s idea but said “a just peace cannot mean that the aggressor gets rewarded.” As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, “China is obliged to use its influence for global peace,” Baerbock said. A Russian troop withdrawal from Ukraine is a condition of any peace deal, she said. Amusingly, the geometrically challenged foreign minister also said that "If Putin decides that tomorrow he changes his course by 360 degrees, the whole world will be happy."
German Foreign Minister Annalena Burbock: "If Putin decides that tomorrow he changes his course by 360 degrees, the whole world will be happy." pic.twitter.com/KUXZv7GOH8— skadefron (@skadefron) February 18, 2023
Asked about Wang’s peace proposal, a US official who spoke to Bloomberg on condition of anonymity said that Beijing appears to be trying to publicly promote peace and stability while covertly supporting Russia’s aggression against its neighbor.
Despite several attempts by the media to describe recent developments as an easing of geopolitical tensions, the readouts suggest that neither side is ready to take steps to move beyond the spy balloon incident in order to steer bilateral ties toward a less-rancorous setting.
At the conference, Wang publicly slammed the U.S. response to the balloon - which Beijing insists was a weather monitoring device - as a “weak” and “near-hysterical” reaction; he also accused the U.S. of warmongering.
The meeting itself came with risks for President Joe Biden, who is trying to balance his administration’s desire to maintain “open lines of communication” with Beijing amid a widening bipartisan uproar about the Chinese balloon. Already, tense relations have been souring since its appearance. Blinken postponed an originally planned Feb. 5-6 trip to Beijing in response to the incursion.
It wasn’t clear until the final hours whether the Munich meeting between Blinken and Wang would happen. U.S. and Chinese officials had spent the last few days trying to broker the meeting, Politico reported citing three people familiar with those efforts. Beijing’s condition that the U.S. formally request the meeting had slowed progress in the talks.
“It’s a two-way discussion to land a meeting,” the diplomat said, adding that the Biden administration wouldn’t “bend the knee” to get the meeting. Beijing’s readout described the encounter as an “informal contact” that occurred “at the request of the U.S. side.”
Another Washington, D.C.-based diplomat with knowledge of the talks said Blinken had requested a meeting but “had no response from China” as he boarded his flight for Munich on Thursday.