The U.S. had reached an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to maintain open lines of communication with the country, but the spy craft incident earlier this year derailed the effort, President Biden says.
Biden made the statement during a news conference in Hiroshima, Japan, where he was present for talks with other G-7 countries on Sunday. Biden claimed that China’s balloon had temporarily stalled chances for open dialogue between Washington and Beijing. The president did say he maintains hopes to reopen those talks in the near future.
“How will you manage the diplomatic relationship with China?” a reporter asked in the early morning briefing.
“Well, number one, you’re right. We should have an open line [of communications]. With the Bali conference that’s what President Xi and I agreed that we were going to do and meet on,” Biden responded. “And then this silly balloon that was carrying two free cars worth of spy equipment was flying over the United States, and it got shut down and changed in terms of talking to one another.”
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“I think you’re going to see that again though very shortly,” he added.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been scheduled to meet with his Chinese counterpart just days after China’s spy craft entered U.S. airspace in early February. Blinken quickly canceled the meeting, and Biden ultimately ordered the craft shot down.
China’s balloon, however, was allowed to fly over the entire continental United States, only being brought down off the coast of North Carolina.
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Tensions between the U.S. and China have escalated throughout Biden’s presidency, but over the past 12 months especially. China ramped up its aggression toward Taiwan after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August 2022.
That scene played out again earlier in 2023 when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen traveled to the U.S. and met with current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
In both instances, China deployed a massive military presence and surrounded Taiwan with live-fire exercises in an apparent simulation of an invasion.
Biden has framed the conflict with China as one that will determine whether the world operates under democratic or authoritarian principles in the coming century. Nevertheless, he says China is a “competitor” to be outpaced rather than an adversary to be defeated.
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