ATLANTA—Former vice president Mike Pence said the United States should have sent an aircraft carrier to China in response to the "spy balloon" incident, and accused President Joe Biden of "kowtowing" to Beijing by instead sending Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ask for a meeting with the Xi regime.
"I think it is incomprehensible, after China sent a balloon over strategic sites in the United States, had their ships cutting off our ships in the South China Sea, had their aircraft cutting our aircraft in the Asia Pacific [that Biden] sent the secretary of state, hat in hand, to go kowtow and ask for a meeting," said Pence on Friday at the Gathering, a conference hosted by conservative commentator Erick Erickson in Atlanta.
"I wouldn’t send the secretary of state, I’d have sent an aircraft carrier," he added. "I would say you’re going to knock this off now or I’ll send more."
The Chinese spy balloon flew across American airspace for over a week in January and February, gathering intelligence from key U.S. military sites before it was eventually shot down near South Carolina. Days later, Blinken traveled to meet with the Chinese foreign minister, who offered no apology for the incursion.
Pence’s comments come as the Biden administration has continued to send officials—such as climate envoy John Kerry—to meet with China, despite Beijing’s increasing military aggression and human rights abuses. China and Russia deployed warships close to Japan’s southern islands on Thursday, ahead of a trilateral meeting between the United States, Japan, and South Korea aimed at discussing tensions with China.
Pence slammed the Biden administration as being "AWOL on the world stage," and criticized the president for giving $6 billion to Iran in exchange for American hostages earlier this month.
"It is absolutely wrong for the Biden administration to pay $6 billion to the mullahs in Iran for the release of American hostages," said Pence. "That one took my breath away, but it’s no real surprise because the Obama-Biden administration delivered pallets of cash to the Iranians."
He argued that Biden’s "disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan" was the turning point that "emboldened Russia to make their move" invading Ukraine. He said U.S. support for Ukraine’s armed forces was critical for degrading the Russian military.
"With the support of the United States and our allies, Russia’s gone from the second most powerful military in the world to the second most powerful military in Ukraine," he said. "That’s what we used to call progress."
The former vice president also denounced the growing trend of isolationism in the Republican presidential primary field. Vivek Ramaswamy has campaigned on ending aid to Ukraine, while Florida governor Ron DeSantis has said the United States doesn’t have a compelling interest in the European conflict.
"I believe America’s the leader of the free world, the arsenal of democracy," said Pence. "I frankly hear the former president [Donald Trump] and other candidates in the field pulling back on American leadership."