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Biden says there is still no evidence that unidentified flying objects were related to Chinese espionage

WASHINGTON – In his first speech since the U.S. military shot down three unidentified flying objects last weekend, just days after shooting down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, President Joe Biden defended the actions Thursday and said the skies over the United States will now be closer scrutinized.

Even Biden, who was under increasing pressure from lawmakers to address the unprecedented situation, has thus far said nothing to suggest that the mysterious objects were connected to Chinese surveillance or espionage of any other nation.

“The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons related to private companies, recreational or research institutions, studying the weather or conducting other scientific research,” Biden said.

Biden said during his brief remarks that he “has no excuses” for ordering American forces to shoot down the sizable Chinese balloon suspected of surveillance capabilities and said he expects to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping “to get to the bottom of it of this”.

China denies the balloon was used for espionage, saying it was collecting weather data.

The United States claims that China operates an extensive surveillance ballooning program over the United States and nearly 40 other countries.

Biden said there is no evidence of a growing number of unidentified objects in the skies. “We’re just seeing more of that now, in part because the steps we’ve taken to increase our radars, to narrow our radars, and we need to continue to adjust our approach to meet these challenges,” Biden said.

“… But make no mistake, if an item poses a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will remove it,” he said.

Deep water debris

Fighter planes from bases in Alaska and Wisconsin were ordered Friday, Saturday and Sunday to shoot down the objects over Alaskan sea ice, Canada’s Yukon wilderness and Lake Huron, respectively.

As of Tuesday, White House officials said none of the debris had yet been found in the challenging terrain with temperatures well below freezing and in waters up to two hundred feet deep.

Some lawmakers have been urging Biden for days to address the nation on why he ordered the items down, what the items were, and what the protocol will be.

“Americans are concerned and concerned and concerned, and they have a right to know why President Biden has directed the actions he has taken in the past week,” Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton said after the senators received a confidential announcement briefing on Tuesday.

The White House and Pentagon have provided few details about the objects that were each shot down with a nearly 200-pound air-to-air missile.

The first AIM-9X Sidewinder missile launched from two F-16 jets over Lake Huron missed and landed in the water, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. The second missile struck the object and the debris crashed on the Canadian side of the lake, according to the administration.

The administration promised on Tuesday to update the public by the end of the week on a new interagency policy plan for deciding when to take action against unidentified aerial objects.

Senators who were briefed privately said they were told the items were “very, very small,” according to Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Dimensions of an ATV or four-wheeler”

Democratic US Representative Jeff Jackson of North Carolina wrote in a Substack post Wednesday that the three objects shot down over the weekend were “fundamentally different” from the suspected high-flying Chinese spy balloon because they flew lower and they moved with the wind, Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, learned in a congressional briefing.

One was the size and shape consistent with a balloon, and the other two were about “the size of an ATV or four-wheeler,” he wrote. Although the objects’ purposes were unclear, members were told they were not equipped with a necessary transponder that communicates location data to the Federal Aviation Administration, she said.

“This episode has triggered a new effort to develop a series of strategies to detect and eliminate UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena) – ideally without having to use extremely expensive missiles – and an improved notification system for our governors and allies,” he said. wrote Jackson.

GOP Governors Statement

On Thursday, seventeen Republican governors issued a joint statement criticizing the Biden administration for what they described as a lack of communication about items hanging over their states, according to a press release from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

In addition to Noem, those governors included Kim Reynolds, of Iowa; Sarah Sanders, of Arkansas; Ron DeSantis, of Florida; Brian Kemp, of Georgia; Brad Little, of Idaho; Eric Holcomb, of Indiana; Tate Reeves, of Mississippi; Mike Parson, of Missouri; Jim Pillen, of Nebraska; Doug Burgum, of North Dakota; Kevin Stitt, of Oklahoma; Henry McMaster, of South Carolina; Bill Lee, of Tennessee; Greg Abbott, of Texas; Glenn Youngkin, of Virginia; and Mark Gordon, of Wyoming.

“The violation of American airspace by multiple foreign objects is unprecedented and threatens our national sovereignty along with the security of our states,” Noem and fellow governors wrote. “As governors, we are sworn to defend ourselves against ‘all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ However, President Biden has chosen not to fully communicate with the public on this critical issue that impacts public safety.”

Noem is now working with state lawmakers on legislation to address South Dakota airway safety, according to her release.

Before the three smaller unidentified objects were shot down over the weekend, several US senators, including Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Montana’s Jon Tester, questioned Pentagon officials last week about why the Chinese balloon is was able to pass through Alaska and the lower 48 states before being stricken down 6 miles off the coast of South Carolina.

New rules for unmanned aerial objects

Biden said on Thursday that his administration would soon implement confidential protocols to handle unmanned aerial objects entering U.S. airspace.

“I will share these confidential policy parameters with Congress when they are completed and they will remain confidential, so we don’t give our roadmap to our enemies to try and evade our defenses,” he said.

Biden said other changes would include:

  • Establish “a better inventory” of unmanned aerial objects over the United States and ensure that the inventory is “accessible and up to date”.
  • Implementation of “additional measures” to detect unmanned flying objects. (NORAD changed its radar sensitivity following the detection of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon.)
  • Updated rules and regulations for those who launch and maintain unmanned aerial objects over the United States for commercial, recreational or scientific purposes.
  • Order Secretary of State Antony Blinken to begin working with foreign counterparts to establish global standards “in this largely unregulated space.”

China’s bipartisan condemnation

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday condemning China for sending a suspicious surveillance balloon over the United States a few weeks ago.

“This resolution condemning China is exactly the kind of bipartisanship Americans expect at a time like this. Instead of each side attacking each other, we are united in this resolution, in condemning China, exactly as we should be,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in his speech on Thursday morning.

The Senate resolution comes nearly a week after the US House, by a vote of 419-0, unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Communist Party of China’s use of the surveillance balloon as a ” blatant violation of US sovereignty”.

Biden delivered the State of the Union address just three days after a US fighter jet shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon on his orders.

While Biden noted in his Feb. 7 speech that he remains “committed” to working with China when it serves U.S. interests, he also said “But make no mistake: As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country, and we have.

Officials estimate the balloon was 200 feet tall and carried cargo or equipment the size of an airliner.

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