US handling of balloon incident ‘hysterical,’ says China’s top diplomat

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China’s top diplomat Wang Yi said on Saturday that the US handling of the balloon incident had been “unimaginable” and “hysterical” - an “absurd” act that had violated international norms.

“There are so many balloons all over the world, so is the United States going to shoot all of them down?,” Wang, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said at the Munich Security Conference.

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A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, which Beijing denies was a government spy vessel, spent a week flying over the United States and Canada before being shot down off the Atlantic Coast earlier this month on US President Joe Biden’s orders.

The incident, which had prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a planned visit early this month to Beijing, has further aggravated already strained relations between Washington and Beijing.

Wang was responding to questions by the Munich conference’s moderator on the incident, and was asked if he would engage with US delegates present to restore Sino-US dialogue to a more normal track.

“We ask the US to show its sincerity and correct its mistakes, face up and resolve this incident, which has damaged Sino-US relations,” he said.

“We hope the US could pursue a pragmatic and positive policy towards China, and work with China to push Sino-US relations back to the track of healthy development.”

Blinken was thought to have considered meeting with Wang on the sidelines of the conference, but as of early Saturday no such meeting had been confirmed.

Blinken is set to depart Munich on Sunday.

His visit to Beijing would have been the first by a US secretary of state to China in five years, and had been seen by both sides as a chance to stabilize bilateral ties.

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