National security officials were forced to talk President Joe Biden out of making a conciliatory call to Chinese President Xi Jinping after he ordered a Chinese spy balloon shot out of U.S. airspace, according to sources who spoke with NBC News.
In the days after the downing of the balloon, which drew massive public attention following its discovery, Biden privately toyed with the idea of calling Jinping and leaning on his past relationship with the communist dictator in an effort to reset relations. National security officials told Biden that Jinping was furious at the U.S.’s decision to shoot down its spy balloon and that a call between both leaders would be counterproductive. Jinping has continued to maintain that the balloon was simply a civilian aircraft that had strayed out of unrestricted airspace.
Instead, the president’s advisors convinced him to let lower-level talks take their course. Calls to lower and midlevel officials began after the U.S. canceled Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s trip to China which had been planned for months. Around the same time, U.S. officials publicly accused China of facilitating the delivery of weapons to Russia in its ongoing war with Ukraine.
“The goal is not to get Biden and Xi on the phone,” a senior administration official said. “The goal is to get the U.S.-China “relationship back on track.”
The National Security Council declined to comment on the latest report.
Republicans have been relatively successful at portraying the Democratic president as weak on the international stage with party operatives highlighting his public stumbles and listless wanderings at the G7 summit. After heavy criticism from lawmakers like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), the White House was forced to admit that the Chinese spy balloon likely gathered U.S. military secrets during its trajectory over a Montana military base. When President Biden tried to side with Xi Jinping in blaming former President Donald Trump for similar offenses, the allegations were shot down by two former Directors of National Intelligence.
Recent polls have shown deep skepticism about President Biden’s ability to lead with a majority of Democrats wishing he would refrain from running for a second term. In May a poll by ABC News showed Biden trailing President Trump by seven points, 42-49, in a head-to-head matchup.