China’s foreign minister has warned of likely conflict should the US continue its “reckless” approach to relations with Beijing.

Qin Gang said rising tensions between the two powers were the fault of Washington, with last month’s downing of a suspected surveillance balloon the latest flashpoint.

The mysterious reconnaissance aircraft was taken out on the orders of President Joe Biden, after it was spotted travelling across the US.

Speaking at his first news briefing in his role, on the sidelines of an annual legislative meeting in Beijing, Mr Qin said America’s handling of the incident had “created a diplomatic crisis that could have been avoided”.

He accused the US of attempting to suppress and contain China, rather than compete, which he described as a “reckless gamble” that puts global security at risk.

“If the United States does not hit the brake, and continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailment, which will become conflict and confrontation,” he said.

“And who will bear the catastrophic consequences?”

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China surveillance programme ‘unacceptable’

Mr Biden’s administration has taken a tough stance on Xi Jinping’s regime, including its relationship with Russia and claims over Taiwan, which fears an invasion in the coming years.

Last month, US secretary of state Antony Blinken warned there will be “consequences” if Beijing gives weapons to Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine – and Mr Biden has vowed to “defend Taiwan” in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Mr Qin denied arms had been sent to Moscow, and insisted China remains prepared to take necessary measures to achieve “reunification” with Taiwan, despite the island nation rejecting its sovereignty claim.

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The minister claimed the war in Ukraine – which some analysts suggested may have deterred China from a similar attempt to invade Taiwan – was being driven by an “invisible hand” to serve “certain geopolitical agendas”.

“Conflict, sanctions, and pressure will not solve the problem,” he said, and called for peace talks to begin.

Beijing’s foreign ministry unveiled a 12-point plan to end the war to mark its first anniversary on 24 February, but continues to avoid condemning Russia or describing the conflict as an “invasion”.

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