Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with NBC News on Monday that the U.S. has moved past its spy balloon dustup with China from earlier in 2023.
Blinken told NBC’s Janis Mackey Frayer in Beijing “that chapter should be closed,” referring to the deterioration of relations that occurred after a Chinese spy balloon was caught flying across the United States in February. Blinken’s trip to China to meet with top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials had originally been scheduled around the same time the balloon was discovered, but was rescheduled as a result.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me his Beijing visit marked an ‘important start’ in stabilizing relations with #China. Does that mean the spy balloon incident is water under the bridge? ‘That chapter should be closed,’ he said. More from our interview on @MSNBC pic.twitter.com/laHzj18ldS
— Janis Mackey Frayer (@janisfrayer) June 19, 2023
“It’s a good and I think important start,” Blinken added, saying that the frayed relationship between Washington and Beijing couldn’t be repaired with a single visit.
China’s spy balloon was first discovered near Alaska. It then crossed into Montana before traveling all the way across North America until it moved off the coast of the Carolinas, where the Biden administration ordered it to be shot down. The State Department postponed Blinken’s trip, scheduled for the same week the balloon was crossing the country, saying the “conditions weren’t right” for a productive meeting between Blinken and CCP brass.
At the time, Blinken and President Joe Biden claimed the incident was a flagrant violation of American sovereignty that wouldn’t be tolerated. Now, America’s top diplomat is taking a different tact.
“We said what we needed to say and made clear what we needed to make clear in terms of this not happening again, and so long as it doesn’t, that chapter should be closed,” he said to NBC. (RELATED: New Evidence Of Chinese Military ‘Shadow Labs’ At Wuhan Institute Of Virology)
Blinken was largely deferential to China during meetings with President Xi Jinping and foreign policy czar Wang Yi, according to later comments and both sides’ readouts of the discussions. China once again refused to establish an emergency line of communications between the two countries’ militaries, and Blinken complied with Wang’s demand that the U.S. oppose Taiwanese independence.