Blinken says spy balloon was ‘unacceptable’ in first meeting with Chinese official, but ‘no apology’ offered

Jens Stoltenberg, Antony Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaks about the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, during a news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Chinese counterpart on Saturday that the presence of a Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace was “unacceptable” in their first meeting since the balloon inflamed U.S.-China tensions earlier this month.

“This was an opportunity to speak very clearly and very directly about the fact that China sent a surveillance balloon over our territory, violating our sovereignty, violating international law,” Blinken said in an interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd on Saturday. “And I told him quite simply that that was unacceptable and can never happen again.”

Blinken, who met with Wang Yi on the margins of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, said the Chinese diplomat did not offer an apology for the balloon incident. Beijing has maintained that the balloon was not being used for meteorological research, not surveillance.

However, the Biden administration has continued to allege that the balloon, which was eventually shot down off the coast of South Carolina, was surveilling strategic sites as it spent a week traversing the U.S. Blinken’s trip to Beijing was postponed over the incident.

Wang mocked Washington’s response to the balloon while in Munich on Saturday, calling it “absurd and hysterical.” 

Three more high-flying objects were shot down by the U.S. military last weekend, creating further alarm among lawmakers in Washington. However, the Biden administration has maintained that the objects most likely belong to a private company or research institution and that there is no evidence to suggest they were related to China’s surveillance program.

Despite ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China, Blinken said he emphasized the importance of maintaining a direct line of communication with Wang.

“I think this is something that the world expects of us,” he told Todd. “They expect us to manage this relationship responsibly. And so, it was important that we had that opportunity this evening here in Munich.”

Blinken’s interview will air on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning on NBC.

Tags Antony Blinken Antony Blinken China Chinese spy balloon Chuck Todd U.S.-China relations Wang Yi Wang Yi

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