The top diplomats of the United States and China met Saturday, in the first face-to-face between high-ranking officials of the two countries since a suspected Chinese spy balloon was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet two weeks ago.
But U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party's top foreign policy official, remained at odds over the incident when they met for about an hour on the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich, according to information provided by the two countries.
Blinken raised the high-altitude balloon's "unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law," stressing "this irresponsible act must never again occur," according to a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Wang, meanwhile, urged the United States "to change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to" bilateral relations, according to China's state-run news agency Xinhua, which called their meeting an "informal contact."
The shooting down of the giant balloon on Feb. 4 off the coast of South Carolina after traversing the continental United States for about a week has reignited tensions between the two countries
While the United States has said the balloon flew near sensitive defense sites and was capable of collecting signals intelligence, China has maintained it was being used for weather research and had been blown off course by accident, accusing Washington of overreacting.
In an interview Saturday on NBC News' "Meet the Press," Blinken disclosed that there was "no apology" from Wang about the balloon's flight.
Their meeting came hours after Wang accused the United States of ignoring "the basic facts" and taking down a "non-threatening airship."
"Such an unthinkable and hysterical action is, without doubt, excessive use of force, and clearly violates common practice and relevant international law," Xinhua quoted Wang as saying at the Munich Security Conference.
During his meeting with the Chinese diplomat, Blinken reiterated U.S. President Joe Biden's view that Washington will "compete and will unapologetically stand up for our values and interests" but does not want conflict with Beijing and is not looking for a new Cold War, according to the statement.
The incident had "exposed to the world" China's balloon surveillance program, Blinken also told him, describing it as affecting more than 40 countries across five continents, it said.
The discovery in U.S. airspace of the balloon led to Blinken's postponement of a scheduled visit to Beijing, which was meant to be part of their efforts to better manage differences and ease tensions following Biden's first summit in person with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November.
During the meeting in the German city, Blinken said in a tweet that he also touched on Russia's war against Ukraine and warned China of consequences if Beijing provides material support to Moscow.
On North Korea's test-firing Saturday of an intercontinental ballistic missile, Blinken condemned the action and underscored "the need for responsible powers to respond to such significant international challenges," according to Price.
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