U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking a meeting with Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping to discuss developments related to the United States’ shooting down a Chinese spy balloon earlier this month, and to pursue regular relations with China.
Biden ordered the balloon to be shot down when it entered airspace over the continental United States near the Idaho-Montana border on Jan. 31. The Pentagon chose to collect intelligence from the balloon, ultimately waiting until Feb. 4 to shoot it down off the coast of South Carolina.
“I expect to be speaking with President Xi, and I hope we are going to get to the bottom of this,” Biden said during a Feb. 16 press conference.
“But I make no apologies for taking down that balloon.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a single-party state, shut down top-level military communications with the United States after the incident, refusing to accept calls from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Despite the stonewalling, the Biden administration has vowed to keep all lines of communication open with China, and is continuously seeking to reengage the communist power to prevent a further worsening of relations between the two powers.
“This episode underscores the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our diplomats and our military professionals,” Biden said.
“Our diplomats will be engaging further, and I will remain in communication with President Xi.”
To that end, Biden said that the United States was continuing with efforts to engage China and seek normal relations between the two countries.
Thus far, the Biden administration has adopted a relatively mild response for the violation of U.S. airspace, opting to sanction six entities related to China’s military spy balloon program.
China, likewise, has issued largely symbolic sanctions on the United States’ two largest defense manufacturers, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Earlier in the month, the administration acknowledged that China’s spy balloon program had been in development for years, and targeted 40 nations on five continents, including the country’s “closest allies and partners.”
Despite this, Biden underscored, the administration still does not believe it is in a cold war with the CCP.
“We’ll also continue to engage with China, as we have throughout the past two weeks,” Biden said.
“As I’ve said since the beginning of my administration, we seek competition, not conflict, with China. We’re not looking for a new Cold War.”
Biden Administration Seeks Normal Relations with China
Biden’s remarks appear to be in line with a broader, if unofficial, policy stance adopted by the administration, which seeks better ties with China despite increasing aggression from the regime.
Indeed, over the course of the week, multiple Biden administration officials have underscored that they will not be bringing forward any political ramifications for the incursion of the Chinese spy balloon.
Speaking with Politico on Feb. 14, Vice President Kamala Harris said that she saw no reason why the violation of U.S. airspace by the Chinese spy balloon should interfere with broader U.S.-China diplomacy.
When asked directly if the incident should affect diplomatic ties, Harris said simply, “I don’t think so, no.”
“Everything that has happened in the last week and a half is, we believe, very consistent with our stated approach,” Harris added in defense of the administration’s decision-making.
Likewise, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Feb. 15 that the United States would seek to avert a cold war and had every intention of sending Secretary of State Antony Blinken on his trip to China, which was postponed in the wake of China’s violation of U.S. airspace.
“Our communications have not stopped,” Sherman said during a talk at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.
“We hope when conditions make sense that we will be seeing each other face to face again.”
Congress Condemns China, Seeks Transparency from Biden
Despite the assurance of the Biden administration to the contrary, Congress appears to believe that the CCP is making an already extant cold war hotter, and that political ramifications are necessary.
Both the House and the Senate have passed resolutions formally condemning China’s communist regime for its efforts to violate U.S. sovereignty and spy on American citizens and military installations.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s use of a high-altitude surveillance balloon over United States territory as a brazen violation of United States sovereignty,” a House resolution passed on Feb. 9 said.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s intelligence collection directed against the United States poses a threat to United States interests and security.”
The sentiment of that resolution, which passed unanimously by a 419-0 vote, was reflected again in two Senate resolutions passed on Feb. 15.
One of those not only condemned the CCP’s illegal violation of sovereignty, but “calls on the President to be transparent with the American people and Congress regarding this latest spying incident and all other attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to conduct surveillance on United States citizens, territory, and assets.”