(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden said the U.S. “acted out of an abundance of caution” when shooting down three unidentified aerial objects flying over North American airspace this past weekend.
While officials are still working to recover the objects and assess them, Biden said nothing currently suggests they were related to China’s surveillance program or that they were surveillance objects from other countries.
“But make no mistake, if any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down,” Biden said.
On the Chinese surveillance balloon, Biden added: “I make no apologies for taking down that balloon.”
The president’s remarks on Thursday were the first time he’s commented extensively on the issue, coming more than two weeks after the Chinese spy balloon was spotted over Montana.
The balloon that traversed the continental U.S. between Jan. 28 and Feb. 4 added tension to the already fraught U.S.-China relationship. Biden was criticized by Republicans for not taking action to shoot the balloon down earlier, though he said he ordered it be taken down as soon as possible but his military advisers said it was too risky to do over land.
Since then, three unidentified aerial objects were downed by the U.S. military over three successive days — one over Alaska, one over Canada and the third over Lake Huron in Michigan.
The administration has yet to confirm what those objects were or where they came from, though White House spokesperson John Kirby said earlier this week a “leading explanation” within the intelligence community is that the objects may have been for commercial or benign use.
Biden echoed that sentiment Thursday, saying while they still don’t know for sure the objects were “most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions” for weather purposes or scientific research.
An interagency review has been underway to study broader policy implications for detecting and analyzing unidentified aerial objects that pose either safety or security risks.
“They are continuing to work intensively to put forward parameters … that work is continuing but you will hear from the president and he will give an update on what has occurred over the last several days,” White House press secretary Jean-Pierre said Thursday of the interagency review. She had previously said their work was expected to be done by the end of the week.
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