White House wants to ‘exploit’ what it can recover from China balloon
White House national security officials on Monday said the Biden administration is working to recover the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said recovering the balloon will take time but be beneficial “so that we can then exploit what we recover and learn even more than we have learned.”
He offered the remarks during an appearance as part of a panel at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition summit.
Sullivan said the U.S. has been able to learn a good amount already because officials monitored the balloon when it traversed the U.S. before it was shot down.
National security spokesman John Kirby echoed those comments in a briefing on Monday, noting how valuable it will be to surveil the balloon.
“Our efforts to surveil this balloon and what we’re going to learn from the recovery will prove to be valuable,” he said.
“The time that we had to study this balloon over the course of a few days last week, we believe, was important and will give us a lot more clarity not only on the capabilities that these balloons have but what China is trying to do with them,” Kirby added.
He also said he would not discuss assessments of whether Chinese President Xi Jinping was aware of the balloon before it was revealed by the U.S.
“As you know, we are still in recovery mode on the balloon remnants itself both on the surface and under sea. And we expect we’ll learn more through that recovery effort,” he said.
The U.S military shot down the balloon on Saturday off the coast of South Carolina, days after it was first detected floating through U.S. airspace.
Biden faced a rash of criticism over the weekend, mostly from Republicans, who said he acted too slowly to shoot down the balloon. Reports separately have surfaced that at least three similar spy aircraft were spotted over the U.S. during former President Trump’s time in office.
Sullivan said on Monday’s panel that the Biden administration has come to understand that during the Trump administration, there were “multiple instances” of surveillance balloons.
He defended taking time to shoot down the balloon, saying the White House was waiting until it was over water to prevent any injuries or destruction of property. But he also sought to contrast the Biden decision to shoot down the balloon with how the previous administration had handled the surveillance craft.
“The first time any American president ordered a shoot down of any of these balloons was on Saturday, when Joe Biden did it,” Sullivan said.
Kirby said the administration has reached out to former Trump administration officials to brief them on the situation.
“I can tell you that we have reached out to key officials from the previous administration and offered them briefings on the forensics that we did and expressed our willingness to walk them through what we learned. And I think that’s kind of where I need to leave that one,” the spokesman said.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.