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The backstory: After heightened tensions during most of 2022, the US and China have taken small steps to become friendlier. They were on their way to rebuilding and strengthening diplomatic ties, with Presidents Xi and Biden meeting in person as well as other top officials from both countries. Mostly, the focus has been on building peaceful economic competition and working together to solve issues like climate change.
More recently: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was planning on visiting China as a part of this relationship-building. But, in late January, the US military caught wind of what the country thought was a Chinese balloon floating near sensitive military and nuclear testing sites in Montana. The US said it was a spy balloon, but China said it was only a weather balloon off-course. Blinken canceled his visit to China, and the US shot down the suspected surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina.
The development: On Sunday, China said it was going to shoot down an unidentified object flying near its eastern coast. It also said the US had sent surveillance balloons over China more than 10 times since last January, but the White House denied these accusations. Meanwhile, the US has been shooting down other unidentified objects in its airspace over the past few days and is planning an investigation into them. Some anonymous officials are saying that Blinken could meet with Chinese counterparts sometime this weekend at a Munich conference, so we’ll wait to see how that unfolds.
"Since last year, the US's high-altitude balloons have undergone more than 10 illegal flights into Chinese airspace without the approval of the relevant Chinese departments," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing.
"This is the latest example of China scrambling to do damage control. It has repeatedly and wrongly claimed the surveillance balloon it sent over the United States was a weather balloon and to this day has failed to offer any credible explanations for its intrusion into our airspace and the airspace of others," said a State Department spokesperson to Axios on Monday.
"As Secretary Blinken has said consistently, and as he has said to Wang Yi – as have all said to the PRC – we are open to dialogue when it is in our interest to do so and we believe the conditions are right," said US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman at a news conference. "I know there's been a report about a potential meeting in Munich, but I have nothing to announce today."