WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris said Friday that the Chinese spy balloon that traversed the US this month was “not helpful” — days after saying the incursion should not impact US-China relations.
“As it relates to the Chinese balloon, we shot it down because it needed to be shot down because we were confident that it was used by China to spy on the American people,” Harris told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell.
Harris did not directly answer Mitchell’s question about Chinese government claims that the flight path was accidental.
“We will maintain the perspective that we have in terms of what should be the relationship between China and the United States,” Harris replied.
“That is not going to change, but surely and certainly that balloon was not helpful, which is why we shot it down.”
Harris, who gave the interview while in Germany for the annual Munich Security Conference, said in a different interview published Wednesday by Politico that the spy ballon shouldn’t have negative effects on America’s ties with China.
“I don’t think so, no,” the veep said.
The Biden administration has alternated between a conciliatory tone and tough-talking condemnation of the Chinese balloon, which was shot down Feb. 4 off South Carolina’s coast after intense political pressure for allowing it to float over US military sites.
Biden administration officials say the balloon wasn’t downed earlier because it was dangerous to do so over land and because recovery of the device’s components would be easier on the water.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday afternoon denounced China’s “irresponsible actions” while saying the fate of relations were up to Beijing.
In his own remarks, the 80-year-old Biden said the “violation of our sovereignty is unacceptable” — but added the US would “continue to engage with China, as we have throughout the past two weeks.
“As I’ve said since the beginning of my administration, we seek competition, not conflict, with China,” the president said. “We’re not looking for a new Cold War.”
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