MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — President Joe Biden spoke Thursday on the recent aerial objects that were shot down in recent weeks as the U.S. Navy is expected to wrap up its search for debris from the suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Myrtle Beach coast.
While not expressing regret for downing the three still-unidentified objects, Biden said he hoped the new rules would help “distinguish between those that are likely to pose safety and security risks that necessitate action and those that do not.”
“Make no mistake, if any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people I will take it down,” he added, repeating the legal justification cited for the downings — that the objects, flying between 20,000 and 40,000 feet posed a remote risk to civilian planes.
The downing of the Chinese surveillance craft was the first known peacetime shootdown of an unauthorized object in U.S. airspace — a feat repeated three times a week later.
Biden sharply criticized China’s surveillance program, saying the shootdown sent a “clear message, the violation of our sovereignty is unacceptable,” but said he looks to maintain open lines of communication with Beijing. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken postponed his first planned trip to China as the balloon was flying over the U.S., and a new meeting with his Chinese counterpart has yet to be scheduled.
“I expect to be speaking with President Xi and I hope we can get to the bottom of this,” Biden said, adding, “But I make no apologies for taking down that balloon.”
Citing Pentagon officials, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports that the parts of the balloon officials were searching for, including a 30-40 foot antenna array, have been recovered.
Those searching for the debris knew what they were looking for based on photos of the balloon taken by spy planes as the balloon crossed the U.S., according to Martin.
As of Thursday afternoon, the search hasn’t officially been called off, but a decision is expected later Thursday, Martin said.
A witness told News13 crews were using forklifts to put containers onto trucks at the Johnny Causey boat landing on Thursday afternoon.
Biden said the other three objects that were shot down over North America appear to have belonged to private companies or were being used for scientific research, but crews are working to recover the debris to know for sure.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Kevin Accettulla is the digital executive producer at News13. Kevin is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He joined the News13 team in March 2020 after nearly two years at a sister station in Pennsylvania. Follow Kevin on Twitter and read more of his work here.