President Biden on Thursday downplayed the significance of the Chinese spy balloon that flew over the US mainland last week before being shot out of the sky off the South Carolina coast, saying it was ânot a major breach.â
The 80-year-old president explained during an interview with Telemundo that the amount of intelligence gathering being done by foreign countries is âoverwhelming,â seeming to suggest that the spy-balloon incident was run-of-the-mill.Â Â
âItâs not a major breach,” Biden argued. âLook, the total amount of intelligence gathering thatâs going on by every country around the world is overwhelming.â
The spy balloon, downed by a US fighter jet last Saturday after spending days traversing US airspace, was equipped with antennas capable of collecting communications signals and other intelligence-gathering materials, according to the State Department.
When asked if he regretted waiting so long before having the spy craft obliterated, Biden responded, âNo.â
âI said I wanted it shot down as soon as possible and [the intelligence community and Defense Department] were worried about the damage that can be done even in a big state like Montana,â the president said.
âThis thing was gigantic. What happened if it came down and hit a school in a rural area? So, I told them as soon as they can shoot it down, shoot it down. They made a wise decision,â Biden added.
A Pentagon official said Thursday that downing the craft as it hovered near Alaska wouldâve made recovering the balloonâs payload extremely difficult and dangerous, as the waters near the Aleutian Islands can be frigid and very deep.
âItâs totally a violation of international law. It’s our airspace. And once it comes in our space we can do what we want with it,â Biden continued.
The House unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday condemning China for its âbrazen violation of United States sovereigntyâ for the surveillance operation and calling on the White House to âcontinue to keep Congress apprised by providing comprehensive briefing on this incident.â
The House resolution also asked the Biden administration to provide an âassessment of what surveillance data [China] was potentially able to collect or transmit,â details on the measures âtaken to mitigate the [balloonâs] intelligence collection threatâ and detailed descriptions of âplans, capabilities and methodsâ that can be used to stop China from collecting intelligence.
In the Senate, members have grown frustrated over the lack of answers the Pentagon has been giving in public hearings regarding the balloon.
âI know weâre going to have an opportunity for more information in the classified brief,â Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Thursday. â[But] I think that the American public deserve more than they have seen in terms of transparency about why this spy balloon was allowed to spend two days over our waters and over the state of Alaska.â
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