Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
February 17, 2023
It has been two weeks since the suspected Chinese spy balloon was shut down in the east coast of the USA, and finally President spoke at the Whitehouse yesterday. It was a relatively short speech and no new details about the “spy” balloon were revealed. Then Biden did not respond to the roomful of reporters’ shouting questions to him.
Biden’s tone seemed to be conciliatory to the Chinese and almost sounded like the incident was over already. A key statement was “I expect to be speaking with President Xi, I hope we are going to get to the bottom of this, but I make no apologies for taking down that balloon.” It was defensive and presented no specific evidence of the Chinese balloon was indeed a spy platform capable of intercepting/re-transmitting US military signals. It appears that Biden and Xi will need a new summit just to settle the scores. Till then, the US-China relation is on-hold, not necessary on life-support, but no advancement is possible.
In the meantime, Biden’s speech limited the scope of the incident to a single balloon and cleared the Chinese from the three other UFO’s shut down by the US in land. It may make the re-start of the US-China contacts a bit easier, unfortunately this incident has already caused public resentments in the US against China and vice versa.
There are many unanswered questions, and we are waiting for an update from Biden on “That’s why I’ve directed my team to come back to me with sharper rules for how we will deal with these unidentified objects moving forward, distinguishing between those that are likely to pose safety and security risks that necessitate action and those that do no.”
It may be very helpful if the US government can make it public of those “sharper rules” so there would not be any new “balloon incident” above the US sky.
Biden says he will speak to China’s Xi about balloon incident
Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
Wed, February 15, 2023 at 8:56 AM PST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden said on Thursday he expects to speak with China’s President Xi Jinping about what the United States says was a Chinese spy balloon that a U.S. fighter jet shot down early this month after it transited the United States.
“We are not looking for a new cold war,” Biden said.
Biden, in his most extensive remarks about the Chinese balloon and three unidentified objects downed by U.S. fighters, did not say when he would speak with Xi, but said the United States was continuing to engage diplomatically with China on the issue.
“I expect to be speaking with President Xi, I hope we are going to get to the bottom of this, but I make no apologies for taking down that balloon,” Biden said in response to complaints from Beijing.
After the speech, he told NBC News: “I think the last thing that Xi wants is to fundamentally rip the relationship with the United States and with me.”
Biden, who had made few public comments about the spate of aerial objects that began with the spotting of the Chinese balloon, broke his silence after lawmakers demanded more information on the incidents, which have baffled many Americans.
“We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they were related to the Chinese spy balloon program or they were surveillance vehicles from any other country,” Biden said.
The intelligence community believes the objects were “most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions,” Biden said.
“That’s why I’ve directed my team to come back to me with sharper rules for how we will deal with these unidentified objects moving forward, distinguishing between those that are likely to pose safety and security risks that necessitate action and those that do not,” he said.
Biden’s remarks followed reports that the Chinese balloon, downed on Feb. 4 after crossing the continental United States, originally had a trajectory that would have taken it over Guam and Hawaii but was blown off course by prevailing winds.
It was shot down off the South Carolina coast. American lawmakers have slammed the administration for letting it first drift across the country, including near sensitive military bases.
Asked in advance about Biden’s remarks, a China’s foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday once again referred to the downed balloon as an “unmanned civilian airship,” and said its flight into U.S. airspace was an “isolated” incident.
The U.S. “should be willing to meet China in the middle, manage differences and appropriately handle isolated, unexpected incidents to avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments; and promote the return of U.S.-China relations to a healthy and stable development track,” spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters at a regular briefing.
Biden says he makes no apologies for downing China balloon
BBC News, Washington DC
He said the balloon was used for surveillance, but three other objects shot down over North America were unlikely to be foreign spy crafts.
Mr Biden also said he would speak with China’s President Xi Jinping soon about this month’s incident.
“I hope we are going to get to the bottom of this, but I make no apologies for taking down that balloon,” Mr Biden said at the White House on Thursday.
China has denied the balloon was used for surveillance, instead saying it blew off course while collecting weather data.
But Mr Biden reiterated the view of US officials that the balloon, which traversed the country at an altitude of about 40,000ft (12,192m) before being blown out of the sky by a US fighter jet over the Atlantic, was in fact used for spying.
He said the US was continuing to speak with China on the issue. “We are not looking for a new cold war,” Mr Biden said.
Brief remarks leave questions unanswered
Joe Biden has been under increasing pressure to talk directly to the public about the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon, as well as the three unidentified objects American fighter jets have scrambled to destroy over the past week.
On Thursday afternoon he did that – but his brief appearance will do very little to silence critics or those asking for more information and explanations.
He shed no light on the nature of those objects and provided no further information about the first Chinese balloon.
He didn’t discuss when the Chinese balloon was first detected, its intended purpose or recent reports that it had been directed toward the US island of Guam but then changed course. Nor did he say why, after a flurry of incidents last week, no new objects have been targeted.
As an explanatory endeavour, it was weak sauce. And as a public-relations effort, it will probably come up short.
It may calm the waters for now, but the next time a balloon floats across the American sky, or fighters scramble and missiles fly, the questions will return with renewed urgency.