The United States is preparing for a possible meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi during a regional security conference in Europe this Friday, a diplomatic source confirmed to VOA on the condition of anonymity.
The meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference could be the first face-to-face talks between two top diplomats since the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon early this month. The incident led Blinken to postpone a planned trip to Beijing.
Blinken told Wang Yi in a phone call on February 3 that the spy balloon, which drifted across the continental United States, was “an irresponsible act and a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law that undermined the purpose” of Blinken’s trip.
China said it was a weather balloon that strayed off course and later charged that the U.S. has conducted more than 10 balloon flights over China since May 2022. The U.S. has rejected both claims.
U.S. officials say the Chinese military’s refusal to speak with Pentagon counterparts after the balloon was shot down last week was a dangerous development.
Senior U.S. officials have said open lines of communication between the two countries are critical to prevent unintended conflicts, particularly at times of tensions.
However, officials Wednesday were unwilling to confirm that Blinken will meet with his Chinese counterpart this week.
“I don’t have anything to announce today,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said during an event at the Brookings Institution when asked about a possible meeting between Blinken and Wang.
“I know there are other leaders that will be there. We’re going to see where we are,” Sherman said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is high on the agenda of the Munich Security Conference, which begins on Friday. Vice President Kamala Harris, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will be among those at the three-day annual gathering.
“We will continue to warn the PRC against providing military support to Russia’s war in Ukraine and to crack down on PRC entities engaged in harmful activities,” said Sherman, the State Department’s second most senior official.
Sherman said it is her assessment that “China is trying to both increase its standing in the international community by saying that it’s going to mediate and help bring Russia’s invasion in Ukraine to an end, while [remaining] committed to Beijing’s ‘no limits’ partnership with Moscow. The U.S. certainly has growing concern about that partnership and the PRC support for this invasion.”
“I don’t think that the PRC can have it both ways, though they’re trying,” she said.
Three high-altitude objects over North America were also shot down last weekend, but U.S. officials said they have not seen evidence that the three airborne objects were linked to China.