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China raps US 'hysterical' reaction to balloon incident

China's Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi delivers a speech at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 18, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

China’s most senior diplomat says the United States has violated international norms by shooting down a balloon in an act that he described as “absurd and hysterical."

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, China's foreign affairs director, Wang Yi, said what Washington did shows weakness.

“It does not show the US is strong; on the contrary, it shows it is weak," he said, adding that the shooting down was part of an attempt to divert attention from the domestic problems of the administration of President Joe Biden.

Earlier this month, the US military brought down what it described as a Chinese "spy" balloon off the coast of South Carolina, fueling tensions between the two sides. Beijing has insisted the balloon was a civilian non-military instrument.

“There are many balloons in the sky. Do you want to down each and every one of them?” Wang asked.

"We ask the US to show its sincerity and correct its mistakes, face up and resolve this incident, which has damaged Sino-US relations," he said, when asked by the conference's moderator if he would engage with US delegates present to restore Sino-US dialogue to a more normal track.

"We hope the US could pursue a pragmatic and positive policy towards China, and work with China to push Sino-US relations back to the track of healthy development," he added

The balloon incident, which had prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a planned visit to Beijing earlier this month, has further aggravated already strained relations between Washington and Beijing.

His visit to the Chinese capital would have been the first by a US secretary of state to the country in five years.

Blinken was thought to have considered meeting with Wang on the sidelines of the conference, but as of early Saturday, no such meeting had been confirmed. The US diplomat is set to depart Munich on Sunday.

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