Biden says US not seeking conflict with China after warnings over balloon

US President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on February 8, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

US President Joe Biden says Washington is not looking for a conflict with China, shortly after warning Beijing against what he called threats to American sovereignty.

"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 PBS on Wednesday.

His latest remarks came after he starkly warned China during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, after the Pentagon took down a Chinese balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

China insists that the balloon was merely conducting weather research, but the Pentagon claimed it was a high-tech spying operation.

Biden said during the speech that he had told Chinese President Xi Jinxing that Washington seeks "competition, not conflict." He, however, said that US investments in its alliances and in military and advanced technologies meant that America was now in its strongest position in decades to compete with China and defend its interests.

"Make no mistake: as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did," Biden said, referring to the balloon incident.

China, which voiced regret about the air intrusion, later denounced the US decision to down it, and responded to Biden that it would also "firmly defend" its interests.

Biden, for the first time since becoming president, met face-to-face with his Chinese counterpart in November last year.

However, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would likely try to push the Biden administration to strictly implement current trade and investment controls against China and to expand control to more high-tech sectors and outbound investment flows to China, analysts say.

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