US President Joe Biden delivered televised remarks from the White House on Thursday, addressing the high-altitude Chinese spy balloon and the three other objects that the US Air Force shot out of the sky afterwards.
The remarks come amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing over the alleged espionage balloon.
Biden said that the US intelligence and defense communities are still searching for the debris of the three recent objects that were shot down over the weekend, but they are not believed to be linked to China.
They are “likely tied to private companies or research institutions,” he said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
What is the latest on the ‘spy’ balloon?
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the spy balloon that had traversed the continental United States before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina was initially alleged to surveil Guam and Hawaii but was blown off course.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed an upcoming trip to Beijing in the wake of the balloon saga. Prior to the incident, both sides had sought to balance competition between the world’s first and second largest economies.
Blinken is scheduled to attend the Munich Security Conference this weekend and some have speculated he may hold bilateral talks on the sidelines with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
What has Biden said about the incidents?
Prior to Thursday, Biden has not said much publicly about the objects that have been shot down over North American airspace in both the US and Canada.
Earlier in the week on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the military and intelligence agencies tracked the balloon from when it lifted off from China’s southern island province of Hainan.
Critics of the Biden administration have slammed him for permitting the balloon to traverse the US mainland. It is the first known peacetime shootdown of an aerial object over the US.
After the 200-foot (60-meter) balloon was shot down, the US Air Force has removed three additional objects from the sky, two in the Arctic North and one that fell into Lake Huron.
John Kirby, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council, said there is still no firm understanding of what those objects were or to what entity they belonged but believes they are most likely “benign” objects.
Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has announced an interagency task force to examine the findings and come up with guidelines for how to address such incidents in the future.
How has China responded?
Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at a regular press briefing that the US “should be willing to meet China in the middle, manage differences and appropriately handle isolated, unexpected incidents to avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments; and promote the return of U.S.-China relations to a healthy and stable development track.”
China responded to US sanctions against six entities over the spy balloon by adding US defense contractors Lockheed Martin and a unit of Raytheon Technologies to an “unreliable entities list” over the companies’ arms sales to Taiwan. The addition to the list bans them from imports and exports related to China.
ar/rs (AFP, AP, Reuters)