China declines U.S. call after balloon incident

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called off a visit to China set to begin February 6, over the incident.

February 09, 2023 10:59 pm | Updated February 10, 2023 06:44 pm IST - Beijing

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning | File Photo

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning | File Photo | Photo Credit: AP

China on Thursday said it had declined a proposal from the United States for a telephone call between their two top defence officials, with tensions continuing to simmer over the recent shooting down of a Chinese surveillance balloon.

“The U.S. persisted in using force to attack China’s civilian unmanned airship, which seriously violated international practices and set a very bad precedent. In view of the U.S. side’s irresponsible and seriously wrong practice, which had failed to create a proper atmosphere for dialogue and exchange between the two militaries, China didn’t accept the U.S. proposal for a phone call between the two defence chiefs,” PLA Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesperson for China’s Defence Ministry, said.

The U.S. had sought a call between Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe, in the wake of heightened tensions after the shooting down of a Chinese surveillance balloon. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had also called off a visit to China set to begin February 6, over the incident.

China on Thursday continued its criticisms of the U.S., and also hit out at President Joe Biden for his remarks this week, during an interview, saying Chinese President Xi Jinping was facing “enormous problems” at home

Explained | The saga of Chinese ‘spy’ balloon in U.S. airspace 

“This type of rhetoric from the U.S. is extremely irresponsible and runs counter to basic diplomatic etiquette,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

On the balloon incident, Ms. Mao said “the Chinese side has made clear in its communication with the U.S. side time and again” that the balloon was “civilian” and had drifted off course, and was not, as the U.S. has said, a “spy balloon”.

“Yet the U.S. overreacted by using force,” she said. “China firmly opposes and deplores this…. That narrative is probably part of the information and public opinion warfare the U.S. has waged on China. As to who is the world’s number one country of spying, eavesdropping and surveillance, that is plainly visible to the international community.”

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