Chinese balloon: Washington recovers debris, manages fallout with Beijing
The United States claimed on Monday that it had recovered the first debris from the Chinese balloon, while the administration of Joe Biden tried to contain the fallout from this episode both in the face of Republican opposition and vis-à-vis Beijing.
“The question is not whether we trust China, the question is to decide where we can work together and where we are in opposition”, assured the American president, questioned by journalists on his return. at the White House.
Joe Biden also recalled having made the decision to shoot down the alleged Chinese spy balloon last Wednesday, but that the American military had advised him to wait for the device is over the Atlantic, in US territorial waters.
Washington did not directly respond to the Chinese government's accusations on Sunday that the United States, by shooting down the balloon, which it presents as a civilian craft that has deviated from its trajectory, had “seriously affected and damaged” relations between the two country.
While defending its position of firmness, the United States even reiterated its desire to maintain the “open lines of communication” with its great strategic rival.
“Even in these times of heightened tensions, we want the ability to pick up the phone and chat” with the Chinese, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.
He said Monday. assured that the United States had been in contact with the Chinese authorities since the downing of the balloon while specifying that no “discussion” had taken place on the rescheduling of the visit of the Secretary of State Antony Blinken in China.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, for his part, repeated Monday during a debate in Washington that “the United States is not seeking a new cold war” with China.
The United States is in contact with its allies and partners to keep them informed of the information gathered around the alleged Chinese spy balloon, whose crossing of American territory captivated the country for several days.
Faced with Republican opposition quick to denounce the Biden administration's weakness vis-à-vis China, the spokesman for the National Security Council of the White House, John Kirby, assured that the decision to waiting to shoot down the balloon had given the Americans “a tremendous opportunity to better understand and study” the craft, while waiting for the debris to yield further information.
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He also assured that the United States had “taken measures to limit the capabilities of collection (data) that this balloon would have had above our sensitive military sites”.
No question of returning the debris
Teams deployed off the coast of South Carolina, in the southeast of the country, “recovered some debris from the surface of the sea”, affirmed John Kirby, specifying that the “weather conditions” had so far not allowed to carry out underwater operations to recover this aircraft.
The manager also indicated that the United States did not “intend to return” the collected debris to China.
General Glen VanHerck, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad), said a US Navy vessel was marking out the radius in which the debris fell.
The balloon itself was about 60 meters high and carried a kind of basket weighing more than a ton, the official said at a separate press conference.
The debris will be carefully considered, the general added.
Another twist: According to Mr. Kirby, the Biden administration has “reached contact with senior officials of the previous administration and (has) offered them briefings” about the overflights of Chinese balloons that took place while Donald Trump was president.
According to the Pentagon, Chinese balloons indeed flew over American territory three times for brief periods during the presidency of Donald Trump, and once, also for a short time, at the beginning of the m andat of Joe Biden.