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Secretary of State Blinken and China's top diplomat Wang Yi are set to meet in Munich

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on July 9, 2022.
Stefani Reynolds
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POOL/AFP via Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on July 9, 2022.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, are planning to meet for talks this weekend in what will be the highest level contact between the U.S. and China since the balloon crisis blew up earlier this month, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

The meeting will take place in Munich, Germany, where both are attending a global security conference, said the source, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Tension between China and the United States has spiked since the Feb. 4 shoot-down of what the Biden administration says was a Chinese surveillance balloon that had floated across the continental U.S.

Beijing insists the balloon was a civilian craft for scientific research, and that shooting it down was an overreaction and a violation of international practice.

The incident came at a time of already heightened strain between Beijing and Washington — but with both sides starting to take small steps to try to prevent relations from deteriorating further. Blinken had been scheduled to visit Beijing on Feb. 5-6, but postponed the trip after the balloon made headlines when it was sighted in the skies over Montana.

The State Department and China's foreign ministry did not immediately reply to questions about the meeting.

It's unclear how helpful a meeting between Blinken and Wang will be in stabilizing bilateral relations, given that both sides have dug in their heels on the balloon.

Biden on Thursday said he would talk with Chinese leader Xi Jinping about the incident, but would make no apologies for shooting down the balloon.

On Friday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the U.S. could not seek dialogue while at the same time taking steps to deepen the crisis, a possible reference to sanctions the U.S. imposed on six Chinese companies in response to the balloon incident.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Ruwitch is a correspondent with NPR's international desk. He covers Chinese affairs.