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Twelve days after US downs China spy balloon, Biden addresses public on series of crafts in airspace

The U.S. military shot down four aerial objects in less than two weeks.

Published: February 16, 2023 2:01pm

Updated: February 16, 2023 3:10pm

President Biden on Thursday addressed the American public about the four aerial objects shot down over North America in the past 12 days, saying the U.S. military acted out of an "abundance of caution."

The first of the objects was spotted over the U.S. on Feb. 1, a Chinese spy ballon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina three days later. 

The remnants of the three others, shot down over Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron, have yet to be recovered, in rough terrain and cold temperatures. 

"We still don't know yet exactly what these objects were," Biden acknowledged Thursday from the White House.

He said they were likely private or commercial balloons and that "nothing suggests" they were related to China.

Biden defended his decision to wait to have the Chinese spy balloon shot down until after it had traversed the continental United States and was over the Atlantic Ocean. He said the U.S. was able to take protective measures against surveillance of sensitive sites over which the balloon passed because they knew its path.

After his speech, Biden walked away from the podium but as reporters yelled out questions, he walked back. 

One reporter asked about his family's business relations with China, to which Biden responded: "Give me a break, man."

Biden also announced a four-point plan to address the series of crafts being shot down that includes White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan leading a government-wide effort to make sure the U.S. is "in a position to deal safely and effectively" with objects in American airspace, Biden said.

The U.S. will also update the rules for launching unmanned objects in U.S. airspace, as part of that plan.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will work to establish "common global norms" regulating airspace, Biden said.

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