Friday February 23, 2024

China blasts US over ‘hysterical’ balloon claim

President Joe Biden’s administration has a “misguided” perception of Beijing, says Chinese Foreign Minister

February 19, 2023
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. -AFP
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. -AFP

MUNICH, Germany: China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on Saturday blasted the US reaction to what Washington has called a Chinese spy balloon as “hysterical and absurd”, in uncharacteristically strong remarks against the top Western power.

Addressing a gathering of world leaders at the Munich Security Conference, Wang said President Joe Biden’s administration has a “misguided” perception of Beijing.

And he accused the United States of trying to “smear” the Asian giant while it itself was implementing policies that ran counter to its paradigms such as free trade.

“There are many balloons from many countries in the sky. Do you want to down each and every one of them?” Wang asked.

“We urge the United States not to do such preposterous things simply to divert attention from its own domestic problems.”

Washington has been in a state of alarm since a huge white balloon from China was spotted over a series of top-secret nuclear weapons sites, before being shot down just off the east coast on February 4.

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

The spat led US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a rare visit to China. With Blinken also in Munich, all eyes are on whether both sides succeed in setting up a meeting.

But asked if he was planning a huddle with the US delegation, Wang reacted combatively. Washington, he said, had the wrong view of China as a serious geopolitical challenge and a threat to the United States.“This is a misguided perception of China and with this perception, the United States is using all of its means to smear and clamp down China, and is co-opting other countries to do the same,” he said.

Wang accused the US instead of “100 per cent protectionism, 100 per cent self-servings, 100 per cent unilateral action” in its own economic policies like the Chips Act.

He added that he hoped Washington would “take a pragmatic and proactive attitude” towards China and restore relations to a “track of sound development”.

After four years of antagonistic relations with China under his predecessor Donald Trump, President Biden has made a priority of resetting relations with Beijing -- which he describes as Washington’s biggest competitor.

But tensions flared last year after Nancy Pelosi, then leader of the US House of Representatives visited Taiwan -- the self-governing democratic island claimed by Beijing. That project may be tested again soon, with a high-level Pentagon official arriving in Taiwan for a visit, according to a Financial Times report on Friday.