Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
September 18, 2023
Crises happen all the time, they may not be preventable, but people must learn lessons. US-China relation is tense and complex. During Biden’s administration there were at least two major crises that deserve some critiques.
- Nancy Pelosi, while serving as the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, visited Taiwan on August 2, 2022. A delegation of five Democratic Party members of the House accompanied Pelosi on the visit.
President Joe Biden discouraged but did not prevent Pelosi from travelling to Taiwan. Later on, Pelosi said that if Biden had called her in person and told her not to visit Taiwan, she would not make the trip.
China has repeatedly claimed that Taiwan issue is the redline of her core interest and warned Pelosi not to make the high-profile official trip.
After Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China reacted angrily and cut off all the communication lines with the US. It created a crisis and after one year, the bilateral military-to-military communication line is still broken. It also affects the potential of a Biden-Xi summit in 223, highly desired by Biden.
- The highly visible “China spy balloon incident this February” which played out on live TV. “It was surely the most bizarre crisis of the Biden administration.” China immediately denied the allegation. But “On February 3 Secretary Blinken called China’s decision to fly a surveillance balloon over the Continental United States “both unacceptable and irresponsible.” He also called off a pre-scheduled trip to Beijing: the damage to U.S.-China relations had been done.
Now, seven months later, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells “CBS News Sunday Morning” the balloon wasn’t spying. Gen. Milley also explained that it was the high-altitude wind that caused the balloon drifted off course. Gen. Milley essentially cleared China from espionage: China did NOT send the balloon to the US mainland and China did not collect any information with the balloon. So, it is as President Biden mused in June “the silly balloon incident.”
It would be very helpful if Gen. Milley would disclose that when the US reached the conclusion about the balloon. He is due to retire on September 30, 2023, 10 days later.
The bizarre secret behind China’s spy balloon
BY DAVID MARTIN
SEPTEMBER 17, 2023 / 9:26 AM / CBS
It was surely the most bizarre crisis of the Biden administration: America’s top-of-the-line jet fighters being sent up to shoot down, of all things, a balloon – a Chinese spy balloon that was floating across the United States, which had the nation and its politicians in a tizzy.
Now, seven months later, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells “CBS News Sunday Morning” the balloon wasn’t spying. “The intelligence community, their assessment – and it’s a high-confidence assessment – [is] that there was no intelligence collection by that balloon,” he said.
The balloon had been headed toward Hawaii, but the winds at 60,000 feet apparently took over. “Those winds are very high,” Milley said. “The particular motor on that aircraft can’t go against those winds at that altitude.”
As a U-2 spy plane tracked the 200-foot balloon, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off a crucial trip to China. On February 3 he called China’s decision to fly a surveillance balloon over the Continental United States “both unacceptable and irresponsible.”
After the Navy raised the wreckage from the bottom of the Atlantic, technical experts discovered the balloon’s sensors had never been activated while over the Continental United States.
But by then, the damage to U.S.-China relations had been done. On May 21, President Biden remarked, “This silly balloon that was carrying two freight cars’ worth of spying equipment was flying over the United States, and it got shot down, and everything changed in terms of talking to one another.”
So, Martin asked, “Bottom line, it was a spy balloon, but it wasn’t spying?”
Milley replied, “I would say it was a spy balloon that we know with high degree of certainty got no intelligence, and didn’t transmit any intelligence back to China.”
China, US continue high-level engagement momentum
Published: Sep 18, 2023 10:53 PM
Momentum on high-level engagement between the US and China is being maintained as senior Chinese and US officials held multiple rounds of meetings in Malta over the weekend, serving as candid, substantive and constructive strategic communication on stabilizing and improving bilateral relations.
According to senior officials from the Chinese Foreign Ministry who participated in the meeting, the two sides held multiple discussions on US-China relations, the Taiwan question, the Asia-Pacific situation, and the Ukraine crisis for over 12 hours. The question that took up the most time was Taiwan.
The official indicated that both sides agreed that China and the US would soon hold consultations on Asia-Pacific affairs, maritime affairs, and foreign policy.
Also, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told “CBS News Sunday Morning” on Sunday that the Chinese balloon – hype on which as a so-called spy balloon severely damaged mutual trust – was not spying.
“Milley’s clarification serves as a ‘wake-up’ call to the unhealthy and hawkish environment in the US military toward China, which could also pave the way for future military-to-military communication,” Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Monday.
Chinese ‘spy balloon’ wasn’t spying – US military chief
US intelligence agencies now believe that the mysterious craft really was blown off course, Mark Milley told ABC News
A so-called Chinese “spy balloon” shot down off the east coast of the US in February did not actually collect any intelligence, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told CBS News on Sunday. Beijing insisted from the outset that the balloon was not a surveillance craft.
“The intelligence community, their assessment – and it’s a high-confidence assessment – [is] that there was no intelligence collection by that balloon,” Milley told the American broadcaster.
Throughout its journey and for months afterwards, US officials claimed that the balloon was sent across the US to gather intelligence for Beijing.
In April, anonymous officials told NBC News that the balloon made “multiple passes” over US military sites to intercept electronic communications, before it “increased its speed” in an attempt “to get it out of US airspace as quickly as possible.”
China maintained that the balloon was a civilian craft that had been blown off course, an explanation that Milley now admits was possible.
Despite revealing that the balloon did not collect intelligence, Milley told ABC News that it was equipped with the necessary sensors and transmitters to do so. “I would say it was a spy balloon that we know with high degree of certainty got no intelligence, and didn’t transmit any intelligence back to China,” he said.
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