US President Joe Biden has defended the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon - but at the same time is looking for a conversation. "I do not apologize for the downing of this balloon," Biden said in Washington on Thursday. China has violated the sovereignty of the United States. That is unacceptable.
At the same time, he expects to speak to China's head of state and party leader Xi Jinping. Biden also announced stricter rules for dealing with unknown flying objects. Three other shot down objects probably did not come from China.
Biden stressed that launching the balloon was necessary to send a clear message to Beijing. The US did not seek conflict and did not want a new Cold War. "Our diplomats will remain engaged and I will keep in touch with President Xi." There is speculation that US Vice President Kamala Harris or Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and China's most important foreign politician Wang Yi will hold talks on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference at the weekend.
Serious allegations from China
Before Biden's speech, China had again reacted angrily to the allegations. "The US cannot demand communication and dialogue on the one hand while exacerbating differences and escalating the crisis on the other," said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. The United States accuses Beijing of belonging to a whole fleet of spy balloons that China has used to spy on more than 40 countries on five continents. Beijing also rejects this.
As a consequence, Biden announced stricter rules to monitor and, if necessary, shoot down unknown flying objects in US airspace. He commissioned National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to develop a concept. "If any object poses a threat to the safety of the US public, I will shoot it down."
Four mysterious objects brought down from the sky
Almost two weeks ago, the US military shot down a suspected spy balloon over the Atlantic off the coast of the state of South Carolina. The United States accuses China of wanting to spy on military installations. Beijing, on the other hand, speaks of a civilian research balloon that has gone off course. The incident caused additional tension in the already strained relationship.
Shortly after launching the balloon, the military took down three more mysterious flying objects - one over Alaska, one over Canada and one over Lake Huron in the northern United States. Since then there has been speculation about the origin and purpose of the flying objects. However, there could be a very banal explanation for this.
Biden made it clear that the three objects were probably not connected to "China's spy balloon program". There is also nothing to suggest that they were traveling for espionage purposes on behalf of another country. According to the intelligence services, they most likely belonged to private companies or research institutions and had been on the road for research purposes.
After the shooting, Biden found himself in need of an explanation. The debris from the three objects has still not been recovered. Democrat and Republican politicians had called for more transparency. It was the first time that Biden had specifically scheduled an appearance on the subject. The Democrat stressed that there was "no evidence of a sudden increase in the number of objects in the sky." However, the radars were so sensitized that more objects became visible. The US government justified the shooting down with a danger to air traffic.