Biden addresses recent downed objects in speech
President Joe Biden is speaking now from the White House on the United States’ response to the unidentified high-altitude objects over North American airspace in recent weeks, following the US military’s downing of a Chinese spy balloon.
Federal officials have said the initial Chinese surveillance balloon downed off the coast of South Carolina was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations and had a payload around the size of three buses. By comparison, the subsequent objects, which haven’t been attributed to a specific country or entity, are believed to be much smaller.
The US is now also increasingly confident that the three objects that were downed between Friday and Sunday were “benign” balloons.
It’s anticipated that new protocols on how the US will handle similar unidentified objects going forward will be released this week.
Administration officials from the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence community have briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the initial Chinese spy balloon in recent days.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have criticized Biden for not approving the military to down the first balloon quickly enough, letting it sail eastward for days. They’ve also called on him to speak on the matter.
But administration officials argued that the US didn’t move earlier to shoot down the balloon in part over fears it could provoke an escalation of military tensions with China. They also told lawmakers the balloon was not first shot down when it entered Alaskan airspace because the waters there are cold and deep, making it less likely they could have recovered the balloon.
And officials had been wary of having the president speak publicly about the objects until more information was gathered about the three unidentified objects that were downed last weekend.