China’s top diplomat Wang Yi held an informal meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Munich on Saturday.
Wang took the opportunity of their first in-person meeting since the spy balloon incident to lecture Blinken about President Joe Biden’s “hysterical” response to the balloon, while Blinken told Wang that China’s surveillance balloon flights are an “unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law.”
Wang met with Blinken on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), which prides itself on offering “protected space for informal meetings between officials” in addition to its formal agenda and roster of invited speakers. The MSC hopes that such meetings can defuse international tensions by creating opportunities for informal diplomacy.
Blinken said he “condemned the incursion of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] surveillance balloon and stressed it must never happen again.”
After the meeting, Blinken expressed disappointment that Beijing did not agree to a direct dialogue between the U.S. and Chinese militaries during the balloon incident.
“He stated, candidly stated, our disappointment that in this recent period that our Chinese military counterparts had refused to pick up the phone. We think that’s unfortunate. And that is not the way that our two sides ought to be conducting business,” a senior State Department official said on Sunday.
China’s readout of the meeting was very different from the State Department’s. According to Chinese state media, Wang laid all of the blame for the balloon incident on the “absurd and hysterical” reaction of the Biden administration, denounced the destruction of the balloon as an “abuse of the use of force,” and told Blinken that his government would have to repair the “damage” it has caused to U.S.-China relations.
China’s state-run Global Times on Sunday hailed Wang’s statesmanship for his willingness to meet with Blinken and lay out what the Biden administration must do to clean up its mess – hinted to be a laundry list of geopolitical and economic concessions from Washington that go far beyond apologizing and promising not to shoot down any more Chinese spy balloons.
Wang’s public remarks to the MSC were caustic and patronizing:
During the MSC, Wang told the audience when asked about the China-US relations that the airship incident is actually a political farce created by the US. The US ignored the basic facts and dispatched military jets to shoot down a non-threatening airship with missile, which is unbelievable, almost hysterical and absolutely an abuse of force, clearly violating relevant international conventions.
“China will never accept this and has lodged strong protests with the US,” Wang said. There are many balloons floating above the Earth every day, is the US going to shoot them all down? The Chinese diplomat asked.
Wang also noted that the underlying reason behind this incident is that the US has engaged in misunderstanding and strategic misjudgments when it comes to China.
Wang portrayed China as peaceful and interested only in global prosperity, while the warmongering United States is “using all means to crack down on China and coerce other countries to follow suit.”
“There are many balloons floating above the Earth every day, is the US going to shoot them all down?” Wang asked during one of his press conferences at the MSC.
Another Global Times article on Sunday said Wang lectured Blinken on what the Biden administration must do to “rectify its wrong approach” and demonstrate “sincerity in fixing U.S.-China relations.”
The Global Times said the brevity of Wang’s meeting with Blinken indicated the U.S. is still not sufficiently contrite, and Wang knew better than to waste a lot of time with Blinken.
“What the U.S. needs to do is demonstrate sincerity and face up to and resolve the damage that its abuse of force has done to China-U.S. relations. If the US continues to dramatize, hype up or escalate the situation, China will surely respond by doing what is necessary. All consequences arising thereof shall be borne by the U.S. side,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said after the Wang-Blinken meeting.
Yet another Global Times editorial on Sunday built off Wang Yi’s remarks to hammer Biden and Blinken for allegedly violating international law by shooting the spy balloon down:
The “balloon incident” has been brewing for a while, and the facts are already very clear. Wang accurately defined the US practices in three phrases: abusing force, overreacting and hyping the situation. This is a solid conclusion based on facts and international law. The whole incident was a case of the US abusing force, politicizing and magnifying a random accidental event, and smearing China. The US has not only escalated the issue but also confused the international community. Therefore, it is necessary for us to repeat what is right and what is wrong in this not so complicated accident to the world, in a bid to ensure a correct understanding of the facts.
There are precedents for this kind of incident, but no one has been as unprofessional as the US. Here are several key facts that need to be reiterated: first, this was a civilian unmanned airship; second, the airship entered US airspace due to force majeure; third, the airship posed no threat to the US; and fourth, China communicated with the US about the accidental entry. That is to say China has always strictly adhered to the relevant provisions of international law and acted with a highly responsible attitude. However, the US chose the most violent and drastic way of handling the situation – wielding military force instead of law enforcement force, using advanced fighter jets and firing missiles to shoot down the unmanned airship, which violates both the Article 2(4) UN Charter that “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force” and the principles of necessity and proportionality in the international practice regarding the use of force. It is a typical case of abuse of force.
The Global Times warned that Biden’s “behavioral art” show of balloon-busting is “perilous and could even lead to unexpected conflicts.”
The editorial concluded by saluting Wang for telling Blinken that America’s “abuse of force” against balloons has “set an extremely bad and dangerous precedent and intensified the entire global situation.”