WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden said three unmanned aerial objects that were shot down over the weekend by the U.S. military were “most likely related to private companies, hobby or research institutes” and n Were not related to the huge Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down on February 4.
“We don’t yet know what these three objects were, but nothing so far suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they are monitoring vehicles from another country,” Biden said. to the White House.
The remarks came after days of mounting pressure from Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who said the American people deserved to hear from the president exactly what the administration knew about the spy balloon and why Biden went on to commanded three more floating objects shot down by an American fighter. jets.
The president explained that following the Chinese balloon, U.S. military defense radars increased their sensitivity “to pick up slower-moving objects over our country and around the world.”
“In doing so, they tracked three unidentified objects, in Alaska, Canada, and over Lake Huron in the Midwest,” he said.
“I gave the order to shoot down these three objects because of the dangers to civilian commercial air traffic and because we could not rule out the risk of surveillance of sensitive facilities,” Biden said.
On Thursday, the White House said it had recovered key surveillance technology from the Chinese balloon. “What we learn will strengthen our capabilities,” Biden said.
But it was unclear whether any debris from the three smaller objects had been recovered.
The United States also announced new sanctions last week against six Chinese military and aviation technology companies for their alleged involvement in China’s global balloon surveillance program.
On Thursday, Beijing announced plans to impose sanctions on major US defense contractors in apparent retaliation for US sanctions.
But rather than upping the ante even higher on Thursday, Biden instead sought to defuse tensions between the United States and China, which some experts say are near an all-time high.
“We are looking for competition, not conflict with China,” he said. “We are not looking for a new cold war…we will compete and will we manage this competition responsibly so that it does not escalate into conflict.”
The spy balloon episode, he said, “underscores the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our diplomats and our military professionals” in Beijing and Washington.
Biden also said he expected to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping and “get to the bottom” of what happened.
The huge Chinese surveillance balloon was first detected in US airspace off Alaska on January 28 and was shot down on February 4 in US airspace off South Carolina.
Visibly hovering over the continental United States and Canada for eight days, the spy balloon caused an outcry, with the public and members of Congress demanding to know why Biden had not ordered the balloon to be shot down. earlier.
Less than a week after the spy balloon was destroyed, the first of three other objects was shot down in waters above the Arctic Ocean on Friday. The size of a small car and floating at 40,000 feet, this object was much smaller than the Chinese balloon.
A day later, a balloon of similar size and altitude was shot down over the Canadian Yukon. The third floating object was slightly smaller and hovered at just 20,000 feet when it was carried over Lake Huron on Sunday.
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