WASHINGTON (AP) — Within hours of an Air Force F-22 downing a giant Chinese balloon that had crossed the United States, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reached out to his Chinese counterpart via a special crisis line, aiming for a quick general-to-general talk that could explain things and ease tensions.
But Austin's effort Saturday fell flat, when Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe declined to get on the line, the Pentagon says.
China’s Defense Ministry says it refused the call from Austin after the balloon was shot down because the U.S. had “not created the proper atmosphere” for dialogue and exchange. The U.S. action had “seriously violated international norms and set a pernicious precedent,” a ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying in a statement issued late Thursday.
It's been an experience that's frustrated U.S. commanders for decades, when it comes to getting their Chinese counterparts on a phone or video line as some flaring crisis is sending tensions between the two nations climbing.