China urges US to focus on trade rather than spy balloon spat

Senior diplomat says cooperation with the US is ‘mutually beneficial and win-win’ and will not be derailed by airship row

China has called on the US to move on from the recent diplomatic spat over a suspected spy balloon and instead focus on the mutual benefits of cooperation between the world’s two superpowers.

It comes after officials in Beijing admitted they let a phone call from US defence secretary Lloyd Austin ring out unanswered after an American fighter jet shot down a Chinese made airship that had floated over key military sites on the US mainland.

Both sides have traded accusatory statements since the balloon was shot down off the South Carolina coast. The Pentagon says it has no doubt the balloon was a piece of military surveillance equipment – and has briefed international partners to this effect – while Beijing insists it was innocently collecting meteorological data.

Speaking on Wednesday, a senior Chinese diplomat in the US said the importance of the two countries’ ties should not be eclipsed by balloon episode and trade should be used to stabilise their rocky relations.

“We should not allow this incident to offset the efforts made by both sides in maintaining the stability of bilateral relations,” said Xu Xueyuan, chargé d’affaires at Beijing’s embassy in the US, as she addressed an event hosted by the US-China Business Council.

Trade remains key to China-US relations regardless of any “negative” measures imposed by the US, she said.

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