WASHINGTON: While the U.S. and China are still arguing over the spy balloon incident, reports suggest that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and former Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi may meet in person in Europe later this week, though the U.S. State Department later said no meeting had been arranged.
Bloomberg News and Reuters reported on Monday (Feb. 13), citing sources familiar with the matter, that Blinken was considering a meeting with top Chinese diplomats and the Chinese Communist Party Foreign Ministry at the Munich Security Conference later this week. Director Wang Yi met at the first face-to-face meeting between the two since the U.S. shot down a Chinese balloon.
U.S. State Department spokesman Price said at a press conference Monday afternoon that “Secretary Blinken has not made any arrangements to meet with senior Chinese officials.” He stressed, however, that the US is committed to keeping the channels of communication open, as this is especially important when relations are tense. Earlier this month, Blinken postponed a planned trip to Beijing after a Chinese surveillance balloon was discovered nearly crossing the continental United States, triggering a backlash throughout the United States.
The relationship between the United States and China has fallen to its lowest point in recent years due to issues such as the trade war and Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The balloon incident has caused an uproar in Washington. Many people criticized the military and President Biden for failing to launch the Chinese balloon in time.
On the Chinese side, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused on Monday that US high-altitude balloons had flown illegally over China’s airspace more than a dozen times since last year. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby firmly denied this, saying the accusation was “completely false” and stressing, “We didn’t let the balloon fly over Chinese airspace.”
“Any claim that the U.S. government operates surveillance balloons over the People’s Republic of China is false,” said Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
Since the downing of a Chinese reconnaissance balloon off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, the U.S. military has shot down three more flying objects over North America, including one over Lake Huron in Michigan on Sunday (Feb. 12). a flying object. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin did not respond to questions about whether the other three flying objects belonged wholly or partly to China. National Security Council spokesman Bryant told a news conference Monday that the military had not yet identified the origin of the planes shot down over the weekend.
It was unclear whether Blinken and Wang could finally meet at the Munich Security Conference this week, as the spy balloon incident is still getting hot. A second source, familiar with the U.S. plans and speaking on condition of anonymity, also told Reuters that this was possible but not yet confirmed.
Bloomberg reported that when asked about the possibility of a meeting between Blinken and Wang, a senior administration official said the United States was constantly reviewing its diplomatic options but had no plans to announce it yet. In addition, the National Security Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Chinese Embassy, declined to comment.
It was widely believed that Blinken’s original trip to Beijing would include a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Even if Blinken and Wang Yi could hold a meeting, from this perspective it was considered far from being able to meet with Blinken and Xi Jinping. Compare.
Daniel Russell, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the meeting between the two men, while helpful, could only lay the groundwork for the deep high-level dialogue needed to stabilize the relationship. Blinken is likely to meet Chinese officials in Munich or at the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in India in March, but he needs to visit Beijing and meet Xi Jinping in person to make sure U.S. embassies get through on sensitive issues like Taiwan, he told Reuters. to China.
Around the recent incident with Chinese balloons, Japan has also observed similar flying objects. Japan’s Kyodo News reported Monday that the Japanese and Chinese governments have begun coordinating and plan to use the opportunity of an international conference in Germany in the middle of this month to hold a brief conversation between Japanese Foreign Minister Lin Fangzheng and Wang Yi. A number of Japanese-Chinese relations sources told Kyodo News that Lin Fangzheng could convey Japan’s position and demanded that China “fully fulfill its responsibility to explain.”