US President Joe Biden at a press conference on objects shot down over North America, February 16, 2023.
Washington – The origin of the trio of unidentified flying objects shot down over North America last week is still unknown. However, according to US President Joe Biden, they have no connection to the Chinese spy balloon shot down earlier over the Atlantic Ocean or to the military activities of another country. Biden told reporters at a press conference from the White House. He also announced that he plans to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Photo gallery: Chinese balloons over the USA
“(The objects) apparently belonged to private companies and their purpose was recreational or scientific, for example, they could study the weather. I gave the order to shoot them down because we could not rule out tracking sensitive objects. We acted out of an abundance of caution,” Biden said, adding that he also consulted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the matter.
U.S. government and military officials have emphasized in their statements so far that the first incident involving a Chinese balloon shot down over the Atlantic on February 4 is unrelated to the three remaining incidents from last week. In connection with the downed balloon, which according to the Americans was equipped with espionage technology, Biden reiterated today that China, according to the US, runs a military program that deals with espionage using high-flying balloons. He emphasized that he is not going to apologize for ordering the downing of the Chinese balloon.
American media reported on Wednesday that the balloon, which flew over the US and was eventually shot down by the US military, the Americans had been watching since it took off from a military base on the Chinese tropical island of Hainan.
“We're in contact with China. We're competitors, but we're not seeking conflict. I don't want a new Cold War. I expect to talk to President Sim and we'll work it out,” Biden said today. However, he did not specify the date of the call.
Chinese officials responded by declaring that the balloon over the US was not a spy balloon, but a meteorological one, and instead accused the US of launching spy balloons into Chinese airspace. The White House denied this.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a trip to China due to the balloon incident at the beginning of February. He said he did not want his visit to be dominated by talk of the spy balloon. He was supposed to discuss climate and security issues with his Chinese counterparts in Beijing.
Blinken could instead meet with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, which begins Friday.
A Chinese balloon was shot down by a US military fighter jet on February 4 over the Atlantic Ocean, into which its debris fell. Biden said today that the balloon had almost a ton of cargo underneath it, which included tracking and transmission equipment.
Unidentified objects were later shot down by fighter jets on February 10 over Alaska and on February 11 over Canada's Yukon Territory, as announced by the prime minister Trudeau. A day later, the Pentagon announced the downing of an object over Lake Huron, which runs through the state border between Canada and the US.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer told ABC television in an interview that he believed these objects were also balloons. However, this has not been confirmed by any other US official. Representatives of Canada and the USA have repeated in recent days that the search for the wreckage of the objects is made more difficult by the winter weather and the fact that the last of them is located under the surface of the lake.