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          China rejects US call for phone talks

          By MO JINGXI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-02-10 06:52
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          Chinese and US flags flutter outside the building of an American company in Beijing, Jan 21, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

          Attack on airship did not create 'due atmosphere' for ministers' dialogue

          China said on Thursday that it rejected the United States' request for a phone conversation between the two countries' defense ministers after Washington insisted on using force by shooting down an unmanned Chinese civilian airship.

          "China cannot accept the US proposal given the irresponsible and severely wrongful practice of the US side, which did not create the due atmosphere for the two militaries to carry out dialogue and exchanges," said Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense.

          Tan confirmed that the US had requested a call between the two defense ministers in order to communicate with China after the US shot down the Chinese airship.

          The way that the US handled the incident seriously violated international practices and set a bad precedent, he said.

          "China reserves the right to respond as necessary in light of similar situations," Tan said.

          Last week, a civilian airship from China used for research purposes entered US airspace after deviating far from its planned course. The Chinese side had, after verification, repeatedly informed the US side of the civilian nature of the airship and conveyed that its entry into the US due to force majeure was totally unexpected.

          Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular news briefing on Thursday that it was irresponsible of the US to insist on shooting down the airship in an apparent overreaction, despite China's repeated clarification.

          Mao also rejected Washington's latest allegation that China has a "fleet" of surveillance balloons of different shapes and sizes over five continents.

          "I'm not aware of the so-called 'fleet'. But I think what the US claimed might be part of its efforts to conduct information warfare against China," Mao said, adding that the international community knows clearly which country is the world's largest state actor in terms of espionage and surveillance.

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