US not seeking conflict with China after balloon saga – Biden

The United States President, Joe Biden, says his country was not looking for conflict with China over last week’s downing of an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon over its airspace.

“We’re going to compete fully with China, but … we’re not look­ing for conflict – and that’s been the case so far,” Biden told the US broadcaster, PBS, yesterday.

Even so, the US president angered Beijing by saying that Chinese President, Xi Jinping, had “enormous problems”, including “an economy that is not function­ing very well”.

“This type of rhetoric from the US is extremely irresponsible and runs counter to basic diplomatic etiquette,” Chinese Foreign Min­istry Spokesperson, Mao Ning, told reporters on Thursday, saying Beijing was “strongly dissatisfied”.

The sighting of the balloon, which US officials say was part of a spy fleet spanning five conti­nents, has brought some tension between the two countries, with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, postponing a trip to Beijing.

Blinken has said that the sus­pected surveillance balloon was “a clear violation of our sover­eignty”. The top diplomat has said that the US was giving data to allies as it assessed recovered debris.

“We already shared information with dozens of countries around the world, both from Washing­ton and through our embassies,” Blinken said.

“We’re doing so because the United States was not the only target of this broader programme, which has violated the sover­eignty of countries across five continents,” he told a joint news conference with NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg.

The Pentagon also said on Wednesday that the balloon was part of a programme involving a number of such airships that Chi­na has been operating for “several years”.

Biden, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, said that his orders to shoot down the balloon showed that the US would not hesitate to act when needed.

White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, speaking sep­arately to reporters on Air Force One, described the balloons as part of a fleet and said they had been spotted around the world for several years.

China insists that the balloon was merely conducting weath­er research, but the Pentagon described it as a high-tech spying operation. The balloon floated at an altitude far higher than most aeroplanes and crossed directly over at least one sensitive US military site. —Aljazeera

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