Live updates: White House briefing on unidentified objects in US airspace

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi are both expected to attend the Munich Security Conference this weekend, presenting the opportunity for the two to meet for the first time since the US downed a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that entered American airspace.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Monday she was aware of a report of a potential meeting in Munich, Germany, “but I have nothing to announce today.”

“As Secretary Blinken has said consistently, and as he has said to Wang Yi, as we have all said to the PRC, we are open to dialogue when it is in our interest to do so, and when we believe the conditions are right,” she said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday that there are no current plans for Blinken to meet with any Chinese officials in Munich, but he did not explicitly rule out the possibility and said the US is “always assessing options for diplomacy.”

US secretaries of state typically attend the annual meeting, Price did not explicitly confirm that Blinken will travel to the annual summit, saying, “We’ll have an opportunity to speak to Secretary Blinken’s potential travel” at a later date.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin confirmed Wang’s attendance at the conference but did not mention any potential meeting with Blinken.

US-China tensions: Blinken called off a planned trip to Beijing at the beginning of February due to the presence of the surveillance balloon in US airspace.  

Blinken said he spoke to Wang the day the trip was postponed — and the day before the balloon was shot down — to inform him of the trip’s postponement and tell him that the presence of the balloon was “a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law,” “an irresponsible act, and that the PRC’s decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have.”

There have been some conversations between US and Chinese officials since the surveillance balloon was shot down. The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese Embassy in Washington both lodged “stern representations” with US officials, which US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson described as Beijing “scrambling to do damage control, rather than credibly address their intrusion into our airspace.”

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