Blinken Has Tense Meeting With Chinese Official Amid Spy Balloon Furor

The meeting on Saturday night came two weeks after Mr. Blinken abruptly canceled a long-planned trip to Beijing intended as a step toward soothing relations between the United States and China that have been inflamed in recent years, with some analysts worried about the growing potential for future military conflict.

The canceled trip and subsequent war of words set relations back further. After Mr. Biden ordered the craft shot down, China rejected a request from Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III to speak with his Chinese counterpart — a development that U.S. officials called troubling.

China initially struck a contrite tone about the balloon, saying that it was a weather craft that had drifted off course. But in the following days — especially after the U.S. military identified and shot down three other objects that it now concedes were probably innocuous craft — Beijing’s tone hardened.

Mr. Wang called the United States’ reaction an effort “to divert attention from its domestic problems,” and he said that shooting down the balloon had been “100 percent an abuse of the use of force,” adding that the United States had violated an international convention governing airspace.

Despite the pointed rhetoric, said Danny Russel, a vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, an independent research organization, “the fact that the meeting occurred and that both sides can claim to have delivered their points on the spy balloon may help the two sides put the incident behind them and move on to rescheduling Blinken’s trip to Beijing — which is where the real work needs to get done.”

Mr. Wang has been using the conference in Munich as a platform to tell European leaders and diplomats that China is ready to bolster ties with them and to try to play a role in ending the war in Ukraine. In his public remarks on Saturday, he said that China would soon offer a peace proposal to stop the fighting. But Mr. Blinken warned in a separate event against the allure of cease-fires that Russia might exploit to regroup for new offensives.

Mr. Wang’s entreaties came after China’s leader, Xi Jinping, ended his “zero Covid” policy this winter, paving the way for the country to step back into the spotlight on the world stage. The Chinese government is grappling with a slowing economy and is seeking to bolster trade ties with Europe, amid animosity fueled in part by China’s diplomatic support of Russia.

Mr. Wang also met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on the sidelines of the Munich conference on Saturday, and afterward, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said on Twitter that China was “ready to fully resume exchanges with Germany and other European countries in various fields.”

Edward Wong contributed reporting from Washington.

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