WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told NBC News in an exclusive interview on Thursday that shooting down three unidentified objects over North America just days after downing a Chinese spy balloon was not an overreaction.
“I got a recommendation from the military,” Biden explained over the phone, adding that it would have been easier not to shoot down the objects in the face of political pressure.
Biden also stated that he intends to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but declined to specify when during the interview.
“I believe the last thing Xi wants is to fundamentally rip the relationship with the US and with me.” “Biden stated.
The interview began shortly after Biden made his initial remarks about the Chinese spy balloon and unidentified objects shot down by the US military in the skies above North America.
“I gave the order to take down these three objects because they posed a threat to civilian commercial air traffic and we couldn’t rule out the surveillance risk of sensitive facilities,” Biden said in his remarks.
He stated that the United States will shoot down any future flying objects that pose a threat to American safety.
“Make no mistake, if any object poses a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will remove it,” Biden said in a brief White House speech.
Diplomatic relations between the US and China have been strained since the shooting down of the balloon, which the Chinese insist was not intended for spying, but Biden stated that he intends to meet with Xi.
“We’re not looking for a new Cold War, but I’m not going to apologise,” Biden said. “I make no apologies, and we will compete, and we will manage that competition responsibly so that it does not devolve into conflict.”
According to Biden, the US still has no idea what the three unidentified objects over North America that were shot down by the military over the weekend were. However, he stated that the intelligence community believes they were not acting maliciously.
“We don’t know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon programme or other countries’ surveillance vehicles,” Biden said. “According to the intelligence community’s current assessment, these three objects were most likely balloons associated with private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”
The US and Canadian militaries are attempting to recover the debris, according to Biden, and the intelligence community is still assessing all three incidents and reporting to him on a daily basis.
There has also been no evidence to suggest that there has been a sudden increase in the number of objects in the sky, according to Biden, who explained that the United States has recently spotted more objects due to how officials have adjusted radar.
Biden stated that he has directed his team to develop “sharper rules” for dealing with unidentified objects in the future, so that the government can differentiate “between those that are likely to pose safety and security risks that necessitate action and those that do not.”
Biden said the interagency team he tasked his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, with coordinating will do four things: create an inventory of unmanned airborne objects; develop measures to better detect these objects in U.S. airspace; update rules and regulations for launching these into the skies; and have his secretary of state lead an effort to establish global norms in this unregulated space.
Members of Congress, including Democrats, had urged Biden to speak out publicly about the situation. Top officials from the Department of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence briefed lawmakers.
“”The American people deserve to know more about the nature of these objects, whatever they were,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Thursday.
According to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, the US still doesn’t know what the other three objects shot down over North America were, in addition to the alleged Chinese spy balloon. One was shot down over Alaska on Friday, another over Canada on Saturday, and a third over Lake Huron on Sunday.
“It could have been commercial or weather balloons,” Kirby said at Georgetown University. “We don’t know if they’re scientific research.”
According to Kirby, the United States has yet to recover debris from any of the three objects.
“We haven’t found anything yet due to where they landed and the extreme winter weather in these locations,” he explained.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement later Thursday that the search in the Lake Huron area had been called off “due to several factors, including deteriorating weather and the low probability of recovery.”
“Search and recovery efforts in Yukon continue with the assistance of the Canadian Armed Forces,” according to the statement. “The conditions are extremely difficult, with a 3,000-square-kilometer search area comprised of rugged and mountainous terrain with a high level of snowpack and harsh winter conditions.”
The United States has recovered the remains of an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, more than a week after it first began traversing the country.
According to three defence officials, recovery efforts for the Chinese spy balloon are nearing completion. According to one of the officials, the FBI has recovered everything of value.
On February 2, NBC News broke the story about China’s alleged spy balloon.
Kirby said Tuesday that the interagency team will lay out parameters for how the United States will deal with such objects in the future by the end of the week.