China’s top diplomat renews criticism of US balloon downing

MUNICH — China’s top diplomat on Saturday renewed Beijing’s criticism of the United States for shooting down what Washington says was a Chinese spy balloon, arguing at a conference in Germany that the move doesn’t point to U.S. strength.

Beijing insists the white orb shot down off the Carolina coast early this month was just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds and had only limited “self-steering” capabilities.

Wang Yi, the director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, repeated that insistence in a speech to the Munich Security Conference and accused the U.S. of violating international legal norms in destroying the object with a missile fired from an Air Force fighter jet.

“The actions don’t show that the U.S. is big and strong, but describe the exact opposite,” Wang said.

The majority of Wang’s brief remarks and responses to questions amounted to a defense of China’s policies toward self-governing Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province, and refusal to condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine — while still insisting that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries deserve “the highest respect.”

Wang also accused the U.S. of denying China’s economic advances and seeking to impede its further development.

“What we hope for from the U.S. is a pragmatic and positive approach to China that allows us to work together,” Wang said.

His comments came shortly before an address to the conference by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who didn’t mention the balloon controversy or respond to Wang’s comments but stressed the importance of upholding the “international rules-based order.”

She said Washington is “troubled that Beijing has deepened its relationship with Moscow since the war began” and said that “looking ahead, any steps by China to provide lethal support to Russia would only reward aggression, continue the killing and further undermine a rules-based order.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who spoke at the same event several hours later, also didn’t address the balloon issue publicly.

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