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China offers 'no apology' in first meeting after spy balloon incident, Blinken says

Before an interview on “Meet the Press,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
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WASHINGTON — China's senior foreign minister offered “no apology” in his meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken for the spy balloon that floated over the U.S., Blinken said in an interview Saturday on NBC News’ "Meet the Press."

“There was no apology,” Blinken said of his conversation with Wang Yi, the director of the Communist Party’s Central Foreign Affairs office. “But what I can also tell you is this was an opportunity to speak very clearly and very directly about the fact that China sent a surveillance balloon over our territory, violating our sovereignty, violating international law.

“And I told him quite simply that that was unacceptable and can never happen again,” Blinken said.

Blinken met with Wang on Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany before the interview.

In the interview, he also voiced concern that China was aiding the Russians in their war in Ukraine. NBC News exclusively reported Saturday that U.S. officials believe China may be providing Russia nonlethal military assistance.

“We are very concerned that China’s considering providing lethal support to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine," Blinken said, "and I made clear that that would have serious consequences in our relationship, as well something that President [Joe] Biden has shared directly with President Xi [Jinping] on several occasions."

Finally, Blinken said he told Wang that there should be open lines of communication between China and the U.S: “This is something that the world expects of us — they expect us to manage this relationship responsibly, and so it was important that we had that opportunity this evening here in Munich."

Speaking in Munich before his meeting with Blinken on Saturday, Wang said U.S. behavior around the balloon had been “hysterical” and a violation of international norms. “There are so many balloons all over the world, and various countries have them, so is the United States going to shoot all of them down?” he said.

Wang told Blinken on Saturday that the U.S. needed to address the damage caused to U.S.-China relations by its “abuse of force,” according to a Chinese government statement.

Blinken said on "Meet the Press" that he told Wang the the U.S. isn’t the only nation that has been subject to Chinese spy balloons: “More than forty countries have had these balloons fly over them in recent years, and that’s been exposed to the world."

Diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China have increased since the U.S. shot down what it says was a spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. China has insisted the balloon was not intended for surveillance.

The balloon, which floated above the U.S. for eight days, included “multiple antennas” capable of collecting signals intelligence, and the balloon maker had proven ties to the Chinese military, according to a senior State Department official, NBC News previously reported.

The U.S. has not heard any credible explanation and firmly stands by its assessment that it was a surveillance balloon, a senior State Department official said Saturday.

Asked whether the surveillance balloon was an intentional act, Blinken said that "it attempted to surveil very sensitive military sites.”

He added, “So there's no doubt in our minds at all that, A) this was a surveillance balloon, and, B) it was attempting to engage in active surveillance.”