On Thursday, President Biden said he plans to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping following the U.S. military take down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, stressing that he makes no apologies for giving the order to shoot it down.
“I expect to be speaking with President Xi,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “And I hope we’re going to get to the bottom of this, but I make no apologies for taking down that balloon.”
The last conversation between Biden and Xi occurred during a face-to-face meeting in November on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia. Biden on Thursday said shooting down the Chinese spy balloon sent a “clear message the violation of our sovereignty is unacceptable.”
“This episode underscores the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our diplomats and our military professionals. Our diplomats will be engaging further, and I will remain in communication with President Xi,” he added.
Biden, in an interview with NBC after his remarks, declined to say when he and Xi would be speaking, but reiterated the importance of their communicating.
“I think the last thing that Xi wants is to fundamentally rip the relationship with the United States and with me,” he told NBC.
In addition to the remarks regarding Xi, Thursday marked the first time Biden formally addressed the three unidentified aerial objects that were shot down over the weekend amid growing calls for the president to make a speech on the situation.
Biden reiterated that the three objects have not been tied to China, although the administration is still working to recover the debris.
The president added that he will remain in communication with Xi and his administration will continue to engage with China.
“As I’ve said since the beginning of my administration, we seek competition, not conflict with China. We’re not looking for a new Cold War, but I make no apologies and we will compete. And we’ll responsibly manage that competition so that it doesn’t veer into conflict,” he said.
Biden said so far nothing suggests that the three objects shot down over the weekend were related to China’s spy balloon program, but he defended his orders to shoot them down.
He said that, at the time, the administration couldn’t rule out that the objects posed a surveillance risk to sensitive facilities and said that they were a hazard to commercial air traffic. The leading explanation for the objects is they were tied to a benign or commercial entity.
—Updated at 4:17 p.m.