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Envoy: China-US relations should not be led astray by 'wandering balloon'

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-02-18 14:04


China-US relations should not be led astray by a "wandering balloon", a senior Chinese envoy wrote in an article published in Washington on Friday.

The downing of an unmanned civilian Chinese airship by an American missile on Feb 4 has further strained the relationship between China and the United States, which labeled the airship a "spy balloon".

In the past few weeks, the accidental entry of the balloon into US airspace, and the US handling of the matter, brought new challenges to the relationship, testing the two countries' ability to properly address an unexpected incident, Xu Xueyuan, charge d'affaires of the Chinese embassy in the United States, wrote in an op-ed.

"We sincerely hope that the United States will work with China and not allow a wandering balloon to lead the bilateral relationship astray," Xu said in the article published on The Washington Post.

"We look forward to concrete steps to prevent the situation from going further down the wrong path, so that the China-US relationship can return to a track of sound and stable development," she added.

In her article, Xu noted that the airship, which was used for meteorological research, unintentionally entered US airspace because of the westerlies and its limited self-steering capability.

China has made these details available to the US after "earnest verification" and in the shortest possible time, calling the situation to be handled in a calm, professional and quiet manner.

Still, the US labeled the airship as China's "spy balloon" of the People's Liberation Army, and shot it down, though it posed no real security threat.

The United States also alleged that China has a high-altitude surveillance balloon program targeting the world, and illegally imposed sanctions on six Chinese companies and institutions.

"The overreaction by America — and its moves to heighten the issue — have exacerbated the situation. This isolated incident has caused new wounds in China-US relations," she wrote.

Xu said that many of the issues between the two countries originate from strategic misperception and misjudgment, and the difficulty caused by the airship's accidental entrance in US airspace is just another example.

"When the China-US relationship enters a difficult patch, we must show the courage and wisdom to respect facts and return to reason," the envoy wrote.

"Sensational and politically driven moves harm everyone. By handling this balloon incident properly, China and the US would prove to their people, and the world, that they can respect each other and act responsibly to manage differences and avoid confrontation," she wrote.

Xu's article appeared a day after US President Joe Biden made his first extended statement on Thursday about the spate of floating craft above North America.

The three objects shot down since the downing of the balloon early this month were likely research balloons, not spy craft, Biden said.

Biden said the balloon episode "underscores the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our diplomats and our military professionals".

He said that while diplomats will be engaging further, he will remain in communication with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xu wrote that China stands for more dialogue between the two countries at all levels, which has been an important understanding reached between Xi and Biden at their Bali meeting three months ago.

"It falls on both sides to implement it. If we condense the past experiences of our bilateral relations, they point to this: China and the United States both gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation," she wrote.

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