Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently met with Chinese Communist Party Central Foreign Affairs Office Director Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
It was the first high-level in-person meeting between U.S. and PRC diplomats since the United States discovered and downed a PRC high-altitude surveillance balloon in U.S. territorial airspace. In an interview on NBC after meeting, Secretary Blinken said he took the opportunity with Director Wang “to speak very clearly about the fact that China sent a surveillance balloon over our territory violating our sovereignty, violating international law. And I told him quite simply that that was unacceptable and can never happen again.”
Secretary Blinken noted that as the PRC surveillance balloon traversed the United States, it “attempted to surveil very sensitive military sites. In some cases, he said, “it loitered or returned to them as it progressed east. So there's no doubt in our minds at all that, A) this was a surveillance balloon, and, B) it was attempting to engage in active surveillance.”
Secretary Blinken pointed out that more than 40 countries have had their airspace violated by the PRC’s balloon program, and that the recent incident over the United States has exposed the program “to the world.”
Another issue Secretary Blinken raised with Mr. Wang involved the focus of this year’s Munich Security Conference: Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Secretary Blinken voiced concerns that the PRC is considering lethal support to Russia in its ongoing aggression.
“China is trying to have it both ways,” Secretary Blinken said. “Publicly they present themselves as a country striving for peace in Ukraine, but privately…we’ve seen already over these past months the provision of non-lethal assistance that does go directly to aiding and abetting Russia’s war effort.” Now, he said, there are indications “they are strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia…to include weapons.”
Secretary Blinken emphasized that “we have not seen them cross that line … I made clear the importance of not crossing that line, and the fact that it would have serious consequences in our [bilateral] relationship.”
Finally, Secretary Blinken underscored to Director Wang the importance of maintaining direct and open lines of communication and continuing to engage in diplomacy. “This is something that the world expects of us,” declared Secretary Blinken. “They expect us to manage this relationship responsibly.”