Biden says Xi was unaware of wayward balloon, wants relationship


US President Joe Biden meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Nov 14, 2022. - Reuters file photo

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg): Chinese President Xi Jinping was unaware that the alleged spy balloon that floated over the continental US had blown off course until the matter became an international incident, President Joe Biden told donors on Tuesday (June 20).

Likening the incident to a strongman being kept in the dark, Biden described the flap as a embarrassment for the Chinese leader in remarks to a crowd at a Marin County, California fundraiser.

"The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two boxcars full of spy equipment in it is he didn’t know it was there,” Biden said.

"No, I’m serious. That’s what the great embarrassment for dictators - when they didn’t know what happened. That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was, it was blown off course.”

Biden also told the crowd at a Marin County, California, fundraiser that following Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing he believed the Chinese wanted to "have a relationship again” but that such a diplomatic warming was "going to take time.”

"The very important part is he’s in a situation now where he wants to have a relationship again,” Biden said.

Blinken was the most senior American official to visit the country in five years, and the trip was praised by both sides as a success. The visit had originally been planned for February, but was postponed after the Chinese balloon was spotted over the US.

Biden ordered the balloon to be shot down when it crossed over the Atlantic Ocean. Chinese officials said the balloon was a civilian weather craft and have repeatedly insisted it was not on a spy mission.

Following his visit, Blinken said he believed the episode was closed. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang is planning to visit Washington in the coming months, while other top American officials are also expected to travel to China, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and climate envoy John Kerry.

Yet despite that warming, the talks did not appear to yield a breakthrough on the top US priority: restoring military-to-military communications that were cut off by China after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.

Recent encounters between US and Chinese ships and aircraft in the Pacific had led to US concerns that without appropriate communications an accident could lead to an actual confrontation.

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China , US , Biden , spy , balloon , Xi Jinping

   

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