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Biden Addresses Objects Shot Down in U.S. and Canadian Airspace, Assures Action to Protect National Security

On Thursday, President Joe Biden delivered his first extended remarks on the objects shot down by the U.S. military in U.S. and Canadian airspace in recent weeks, including an alleged Chinese spy balloon.[0] In his address, the President addressed the ongoing tensions with China, and assured Americans that he will take action to protect the nation’s safety and security if need be.

Biden said the U.S. intelligence community currently believes the objects could be commercial or research balloons, but has yet to determine their exact nature and purpose.[1] The President noted that he has directed his team to craft “sharper rules” to better identify and monitor these objects and distinguish between those that pose a threat and those that do not.[2] He also said he will speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping in an effort to get to the bottom of the situation.

Biden also said he makes “no apologies” for shooting down the balloon, and that he is looking to compete, not conflict with China.[3] Secretary of State Antony Blinken had previously postponed a trip to Beijing and called the presence of the balloon a “clear violation” of international law.[4] China has now accused the U.S. of flying several balloons into its airspace since the spring of last year, a claim which the White House has denied.[5]

The President also said he is looking to create an inventory of unmanned aerial objects that are accessible and up to date.[6] The U.S. military has retrieved remnants of the balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4 and three additional objects were shot down from Feb. 10 to Feb. 12, one near Alaska, one over the Yukon Territory in Canada, and one over Lake Huron.[7]

Biden said he is not looking for a “new cold war” with China, but will continue pushing policies to compete with China and engage with Beijing officials.[8] The President’s public address comes after he faced increasing pressure from Congress and the public to provide more information about the objects and his decision making as commander-in-chief.

0. “US will catalogue unidentified flying objects, says Biden” New Scientist, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2360048-us-will-catalogue-unidentified-flying-objects-says-biden/

1. “Biden: Objects shot down ‘most likely’ tied to private companies or research” The Hill, 16 Feb. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/3861845-biden-objects-shot-down-most-likely-tied-to-private-companies-or-research/

2. “Biden says objects shot down over North America last week appear to not be part of China's spy balloon operation” CNN, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/16/politics/president-biden-downed-objects/index.html

3. “Joe Biden says he makes no apologies for downing China balloon” BBC, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64668143

4. “US intel assessing possibility that Chinese spy balloon's path over US was accidental” CNN, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/15/politics/us-intel-china-balloon/index.html

5. “US tracked Chinese balloon from launch, may have accidentally drifted: Official” Yahoo Sports, 15 Feb. 2023, https://sports.yahoo.com/amphtml/us-watched-chinese-balloon-launch-185200455.html

6. “Biden says latest aerial objects likely unrelated to Chinese spying” The Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/02/16/china-balloon-objects-shot-down-biden-speech/

7. “3 mystery objects shot down by US likely weren't spy craft, Biden says” Space.com, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.space.com/mystery-objects-shot-down-not-spycraft-biden

8. “Biden gives speech on recent unidentified aerial objects” NPR, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/02/16/1157530528/biden-remarks-unidentified-aerial-objects-balloon