Blinken, Wang hold ‘direct, candid talks’ at Munich Security Conference

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held rare talks with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on Saturday, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, and warned Beijing not to repeat its “irresponsible act” of sending a spy balloon into American airspace.

The meeting of the two senior officials came amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing. The US has been in a state of alarm since a huge white balloon from China was spotted over a series of secret nuclear weapons sites, before being shot down off the east coast on February 4.

The incident led Blinken to abruptly call off a trip to China.

Beijing however, denies it uses spy balloons and says the craft was for weather research. Subsequently it accused Washington of sending its own espionage balloons over Chinese territory, which the US has denied.

During their meeting on Saturday, Blinken “directly spoke to the unacceptable violation of US sovereignty and international law by (China’s) high-altitude surveillance balloon in US territorial airspace, underscoring that this irresponsible act must never again occur”, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“The Secretary made clear the United States will not stand for any violation of our sovereignty,” he added.

He also warned Wang “about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion”, Price said.

Blinken was “very direct and candid” during the talks, which lasted around an hour, a senior State Department official told AFP.

He was also “quite blunt” as they spoke about Russia, the official said.

In turn, Wang told Blinken that their countries’ relations had been damaged by how Washington reacted to the balloon incident.

Wang “made clear China’s solemn position on the so-called airship incident”, and “urged the US side to change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations,” China’s state news agency Xinhua reported.

Speaking earlier on Saturday at the gathering of world leaders at the security conference in Munich, Wang condemned the US reaction to the balloon as “hysterical and absurd”.

In uncharacteristically strong remarks against Washington, Wang said President Joe Biden’s administration had a “misguided” perception of Beijing.