AP/ PTI

Blinken meets China’s Wang Yi, warns Beijing against helping Russia and condemns its spy balloon ops

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Washington/Munich: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned China that its “material support” for Russia’s war against Ukraine would attract sanctions and condemned the “unacceptable violation” of American sovereignty by a Chinese spy balloon as he met Beijing’s top diplomat Wang Yi.

Blinken and Wang held talks on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany on Saturday, in the first high-level meeting since the spy balloon row began earlier this month.

“The Secretary directly spoke to the unacceptable violation of US sovereignty and international law by the People’s Republic of China high-altitude surveillance balloon in US territorial airspace, underscoring that this irresponsible act must never occur again,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said.

“During the meeting, Blinken made clear the United States will not stand for any violation of our sovereignty, and that the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon programme — which has intruded into the airspace of more than 40 countries across five continents — has been exposed to the world,” he said.

The relations between the US and China strained further after Washington said Beijing flew a spy balloon over America before US fighter jets shot it down on President Joe Biden’s orders.

The balloon incident prompted Blinken to postpone a planned visit to Beijing. The February 5-6 trip would have been the first by a US secretary of state to China in five years and was seen by both countries as an opportunity to stabilise their strained ties.

The meeting between the two senior officials came hours after Wang on Saturday renewed Beijing’s criticism of the US for shooting down what Washington says was a Chinese spy balloon, arguing at the conference in Germany that the move doesn’t point to US strength.

“The actions don’t show that the US is big and strong, but describe the exact opposite,” Wang, the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s most senior foreign policy official, asserted.

Wang called the balloon episode a “political farce manufactured by the US” and accused them of “using all means to block and suppress China”.

China continues to deny that it sent a spy balloon, even as the US continues to disclose more details of the object to back up its allegation.

Blinken also raised the Russia-Ukraine war during his meeting with Wang, the Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs.

“On Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine, the Secretary warned about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion,” Price said.

US Vice President Kamala Harris also alluded to China’s support for Russia during her speech in Munich.

“We are also troubled that Beijing has deepened its relationship with Moscow since the war began,” Harris said on Saturday.

“Looking ahead, any steps by China to provide lethal support to Russia would only reward aggression, continue the killing, and further undermine a rules-based order,” she said.

Blinken also condemned the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) test by North Korea as the latest destabilising act carried out by Pyongyang, and emphasised the need for responsible powers to respond to such significant international challenges.

During the meeting, Blinken reaffirmed there had been no change to the longstanding ‘One China’ policy of the US, and he underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the spokesperson said.

“The Secretary reiterated President Biden’s statements that the United States will compete and will unapologetically stand up for our values and interests, but that we do not want conflict with the PRC and are not looking for a new Cold War,” Price said.

Blinken underscored the importance of maintaining diplomatic dialogue and open lines of communication at all times, he said.

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