Biden’s Defense Secretary Not Taken Seriously, Ignored by China

Biden’s Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, has faced a major challenge in his efforts to establish communication with rival nations after an Air Force F-22 shot down a Chinese military balloon that crossed the length of the United States.

Despite reaching out to Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Saturday through a special crisis line, the Chinese official declined the call, leaving Austin’s efforts unanswered, according to The Associated Press.

This rejection serves as an indication that the Biden administration, and Secretary Austin in particular, are not being taken seriously internationally.

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.

China’s skepticism towards the U.S.-China hotline, which has been around for decades, is rooted in their belief that it is simply an American channel for trying to avoid repercussions for U.S. provocations.

This, combined with the lack of response from China, has raised concerns about the possibility of escalations into greater hostilities.

“That’s really dangerous,” Assistant Secretary for Defense Ely Ratner said Thursday of the difficulty of military-to-military crisis communications with China.

“And unfortunately, to date, the PLA is not answering that call,” he said, referring to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

“My worry is that the EP-3 type incident will happen again,” said Lyle Morris, a country director for China for the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2019 to 2021. “And we will be in much different political environments of hostility and mistrust, where that could go wrong in a hurry.”

The downing of a Chinese spy balloon by the U.S. military has sparked a search for crucial evidence that remains underwater off the coast of South Carolina.

The balloon spent eight days in U.S. airspace before being shot down and is believed to be part of a larger Chinese surveillance military program, a claim that Beijing denies.

So far, debris from the balloon has been collected and taken to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis.