FROM OUR NEW YORK CORRESPONDENT “We will continue to have relationships, we look for competition not conflict: we do not want a new Cold War,” Joe Biden said yesterday. “I’ll speak to Xi and hope we get to the bottom of this, but I’m not going to apologize for shooting down that balloon.” Case of the spy balloon shot down February 4 off the coast of South Carolina, part of a Beijing surveillance program. The other three objects were eliminated in the skies of Alaska, Canada and Michigan between February 10 and 12. And he assumed the latter: “Nothing indicates that these three objects are connected to China or belong to surveillance programs of other countries”. Biden confirmed that they appear to be floating balloons used by private companies for meteorological studies or other scientific purposes.
The President’s intervention had been urgently demanded by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. While he didn’t directly address criticism for the initial inaction against the spy balloon or for the “lucky deduction” with sophisticated weaponry against three harmless balloons, Biden said he took the military’s advice and defended the findings. The “great caution” towards the three objects was required due to the risky low flight altitude for civil flights and the fact that initially it could not be ruled out that they were espionage instruments. Some unanswered questions remain: the US secret service had monitored the flight of the spy balloon from Hainan in China to Guam, the route would have been diverted by the winds; At the time, it’s not clear whether the Chinese operators exploited the overflight of a key Montana base or didn’t use the self-destruct mechanisms, but certainly US-China communications were absent.
Biden stressed that he did not believe there was a “sudden increase” in unidentified flying objects in US airspace, but acknowledged that clearer protocols are needed to manage them. Classified guidelines are developed and communicated to Congress. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will lead a cross-departmental team to conduct an inventory, improve traceability capabilities and update private launch and maintenance rules. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will launch a “global diplomatic effort to regulate this hitherto lawless space.”
In relations with China, the White House is aiming to calm tensions to prevent competition between Democrats and Republicans over who is “tougher” on Beijing, reflected in similar debates in China, the two powers united brings conflict closer. Biden announced sanctions against six Chinese companies linked to spy balloon manufacturing; Beijing has announced measures against two US defense companies. But “the relationship between our diplomats will continue,” Biden said on the eve of a possible meeting between Blinken and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Munich.