“Balloon” case: Where are Biden and Xi going?

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“Balloon” case: Where are Biden and Xi going?

Beijing initially apologized and tried to downplay the balloon’s incursion into US airspace by calling it an “accident”.

By Athena Papakosta

The suspected spy balloon, the size of three buses combined and colored white, was shot down on Biden’s orders. But first he flew over American soil for five days, gave birth to a new diplomatic crisis in US-China relations, made… a TV career after American channels continuously covered his flight “program” and, of course, went viral on Social Media Networking. After it was shot down it ended up in the Atlantic with divers searching for its wreckage.

Beijing initially apologized and tried to downplay its invasion balloon in US airspace citing an “accident”.

He pointed out that it is a research aircraft used mainly for meteorological purposes and that it was diverted by the wind.

But Washington insists the balloon was a spy. He waited for it to move away from populated areas and finally hit it with an AIM-9X missile launched from an F-22 fighter jet. Its downing took place over the sea and in particular at a distance of about six nautical miles from the American coast.

For Chinese data, the reaction of China’s foreign ministry is angry. In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry condemns the US government’s decision, reiterates that it did not serve military purposes, accuses Washington of “overreacting and violating international practices” while “reserving the right” to respond.

The balloon entered US airspace on January 28. On the 30th of the month it passed through Canada and on the 31st of January it re-entered American airspace. The balloon’s flight led to the suspension of the US secretary of state’s planned visit to Beijing which had, in the meantime, been intended to defuse the ever-escalating tension in bilateral relations between the United States and China.

Of course, this was not an easy mission either, as before the balloon began its – as it turned out – final journey, the representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry had blamed Washington for Russia’s invasion of China, the Russian Foreign Ministry had reported that the president of China, Xi Jinping, will visit Moscow next spring, and the United States had strengthened its military presence in the Philippines while also taking the decision to block the sale of American technology to Huawei.

All these developments have occurred in the last seven days between the two superpowers and come to add to a long list of tensions between them in recent years.

However, last November Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met for the first time in person since the US president took office in January 2021.

It was an important meeting, lasting three and a half hours, with the two leaders agreeing that they do not want to clash but clarifying that they will continue to compete responsibly for the world order.

The American edition of Politico reports that Biden and Xi are being asked to consider whether they will prefer escalation or whether they will turn the page in order not to worsen their bilateral relations.

When the US president was asked by reporters how his decision to shoot down the balloon would affect Sino-US relations he did not answer. For their part, international relations observers say Beijing and Washington will try to limit the balloon’s damage.

American officials are already reporting that Blinken’s visit will be rescheduled when conditions permit. If the Chinese side agrees then, the “balloon” case will be shelved. But if he doesn’t then, the tension will remain.

For now, Washington will try to retrieve the balloon’s payload from an 11-kilometer radius in which its debris has been scattered.

If her spy balloon claim turns out to be true, analysts say it could gain new leverage against Beijing either to humiliate China or to use as a bargaining chip in private talks.

And in this case the ball goes to the Chinese side of the court again.

If he chooses to react by going on the offensive then relations will remain strained.

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