The White House announced on Friday that U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron in Munich to address the challenges posed by China and their agreement to stick together.
The White House said in a statement that Harris “addressed issues posed by the People’s Republic of China, particularly the necessity of sustaining the rules-based order, and agreed to remain closely united.”
The meetings of the U.S. vice president with the European leaders, held alongside the Munich Security Conference, come amid a bitter dispute between China and the United States over the U.S. military’s shooting down of what it said was a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina early this month. China says the balloon was for monitoring weather.
Harris defended the United States’ handling of the balloon incident and the shooting down of three other unidentified objects.
“It needed to be shot down because we were confident that it was used by China to spy on American people,” Harris told MSNBC.
Separately, the Pentagon’s top China official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Chase, arrived in Taiwan, two sources familiar with the matter said on Friday, beginning a visit that could further exacerbate tensions between Beijing and Washington.
Although the United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the island’s most important arms supplier and the two have a close security relationship.
China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly demanded that foreign officials not visit the democratically governed island.
U.S. diplomatic communications with China remain open after the shooting down of the Chinese balloon, but contact between the countries’ militaries remained shut down, the White House said earlier on Friday.
China cut several military-to-military communication channels and other areas of bilateral dialogue after an August visit to Taiwan by then-U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.