China’s top diplomat blasts US over ‘hysterical’ balloon response

China's top diplomat Wang Yi reinforced Beijing’s position that the balloon was for civilian use and criticised the US for ignoring basic facts. PHOTO: REUTERS

MUNICH – China’s top diplomat lashed out at the United States, calling President Joe Biden’s decision to shoot a balloon over American air space and the heightened state of alert “incomprehensible and almost hysterical”.

The comments by Mr Wang Yi, who holds the top foreign-policy position in China’s ruling Communist Party, increased tensions with the Biden administration, which says the floating object was being used for spying.

He spoke at the Munich Security Conference, where US Vice-President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were also holding meetings. 

“It is 100 per cent an abuse of military force, and clearly violated international norms,” Mr Wang told government officials and experts in the German city on Saturday. He earlier made similar comments after meeting Pakistan’s foreign minister.

In some of the most fiery comments yet over the incident, Mr Wang reinforced Beijing’s position that the balloon was for civilian use and criticised the US for ignoring “the most basic facts”.

Ms Harris and Mr Blinken do not have plans to meet with Mr Wang as of Saturday, amid speculation of a face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the conference in the Bavarian capital. 

The downing of the balloon over the Atlantic coast prompted Mr Blinken to postpone a visit to China, disrupting efforts to stabilise relations between the two countries.

The US leader said on Friday that he aims to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping to “get to the bottom” of the balloon spat, without specifying when.

While China initially expressed regret over what it said was the balloon’s accidental diversion over US territory, it has denied that the craft was intended for surveillance and denounced the decision to shoot it down as an overreaction.

Mr Wang also pilloried US policy on trade and Taiwan, calling the Chips Act to spur US semiconductor production “100 per cent protectionism” and a violation of World Trade Organisation rules.

Taiwan, which the US has vowed to protect military and which China regards as its territory, “will never be a country,” Mr Wang said.

Mr Wang is visiting Germany on the heels of trips to France and Italy, where he sought to reboot ties with Europe and called for more cooperation on tech issues and trade, underscoring efforts by Beijing to counter what it sees as US containment.

He is also expected to visit Hungary before traveling to Moscow, almost a year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. BLOOMBERG

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