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Blinken has a lot on his plate including tensions with China and the war in Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the State Department in Washington, Jan. 7, 2022.
Andrew Harnik
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AP
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the State Department in Washington, Jan. 7, 2022.

Updated February 14, 2023 at 10:15 AM ET

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says China's use of a surveillance balloon is an "irresponsible act" and "a violation of international law."

The nation's top diplomat canceled a planned trip to Chinaearlier this month when a spy balloon was discovered over Montana.

In a wide-ranging interview with Morning Edition's Leila Fadel, Blinken said he would go forward with that trip only when "China demonstrates that it wants to engage in a responsible manner."

When asked about China's claim that the U.S. has flown spy balloons over China more than ten times, Blinken responded, "We do not send spy balloons over China, period."

When asked about Russia's war in Ukraine, Blinken didn't indicate Russia's war in Ukraine was nearing a resolution as it approaches the one year mark. He said in order to achieve lasting peace in the region, Russian President Vladimir Putin must first "give up on his notion that Ukraine is not its own country."

"If we ratify the seizure of land by another country and say 'that's okay, you can go in and take it by force and keep it,' that will open a Pandora's box around the world for would be aggressors that will say, 'Well, we'll do the same thing and get away with it,'" Blinken said.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can hear and read more reflections on the war in Ukraine, including more from the Secretary of State, by checking your local stations for NPR's Special Report: Russia's War in Ukraine, One Year On.


Interview highlights

Ongetting aid to earthquake victims on the Syrian side of the Turkish border

We need to see more of these border crossings opened. And we've been in a situation for years where every year or every six months we have to go to the United Nations and get a Security Council resolution that authorizes border crossings. Each and every time Russia tries to shut them down and we're down to one. That one at Bab al-Hawa was actually disrupted by the earthquake for a day. The roads were so bad that nothing could get through. That's now operating. But there are multiple other crossings, NGOs are able to use them. U.N. aid is not, absent having some kind of authorization. There's absolutely no excuse, no excuse for not going forward with opening more crossings.

On the tensions with Beijing

We're committed to responsibly managing the competition between the United States and China, and we look to Beijing to do the same. This particular action, sending the surveillance balloon over the heart of the United States, was an irresponsible act and a violation of our sovereignty and international law. But it doesn't take away from the fact that we are committed to finding ways to responsibly manage it. We believe that diplomacy and engagement are important. In fact, this only underscores the importance of having lines of communication. That was in part the purpose of the trip I had intended to take, but in the context of the surveillance balloon, those weren't the right conditions to go forward with the trip.

On the nature of thesupport the U.S. is providing in Ukraine

From day one, when we saw this coming and saw this coming months before it happened, we tried to warn the world. We tried to stop the Russians from going forward. We engaged in intense diplomacy with Russia for months. And even as we did that, we were quietly making sure Ukrainians had the tools they needed, the weapons they needed to repel it. And in fact, that's exactly what happened... We've tried to make sure that as the battlefield moved and changed, we could adapt to that.

On the "stalemate" on the ground

Right now, it is in many ways a horrific war of attrition with terrible losses. And we see huge losses on the Russian side. I think here's the challenge: No one wants peace more and more quickly than the Ukrainian people, because they're the ones who are suffering from this aggression. But it also has to be just peace and a durable peace. It has to be a peace that reflects the principles of the United Nations charter that preserve Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Vladimir Putin has to give up on his notion that Ukraine is not its own country, that it needs to be erased from the maps and subsumed into Russia. He's already failed at that. But he seems to continue to believe that that's what he's trying to achieve. And unless he's disabused of that notion, it's hard to see how peace can move forward.

The digital version of this interview was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi. contributed to this story

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

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Barrie Hardymon
Barrie Hardymon is the Senior Editor at NPR's Weekend Edition, and the lead editor for books. You can hear her on the radio talking everything from Middlemarch to middle grade novels, and she's also a frequent panelist on NPR's podcasts It's Been A Minute and Pop Culture Happy Hour. She went to Juilliard to study viola, ended up a cashier at the Strand, and finally got a degree from Johns Hopkins' Writing Seminars which qualified her solely for work in public radio. She lives and reads in Washington, DC.
Nina Kravinsky