Biden nods to spy balloon in warning to China during SOTU
President Biden nodded to his decision to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon as evidence that his administration will “act to protect our country” against threats from Beijing during his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
Biden has come under intensive criticism from Republican lawmakers that he was slow to act in downing the balloon days after it was first discovered hovering around sensitive military sites, including a location in Montana where U.S. nuclear silos are located.
During the president’s remarks, GOP firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (Ga.) shouted that “China spied on us” even as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) appeared to try and signal for the outstanding chatter to stop.
The president told Congress he has made clear with Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. does not seek conflict, but characterized the decision to shoot the balloon down on Saturday as making it “clear” that the U.S. will act to protect the country.
“I am committed to work with China where it can advance American interests and benefit the world,” the president said.
“But make no mistake: as we made clear last week, if China’s threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did,” he added.
The Pentagon said the balloon was first observed in late January but only publicized its discovery on Feb. 4, when the balloon — hovering around 60,000 feet — was observed from bystanders on the ground in Montana.
Biden has said he immediately called for his officials to shoot down the balloon, but was advised to wait until the massive aircraft was in an area where the debris field would not pose a threat to civilians on the ground.
The Pentagon carried out an operation shooting down the balloon on Saturday with an air-to-air missile and is working on collecting the debris from the sea.
The president and his officials have characterized China as the greatest challenge facing the U.S. in seeking to overtake America’s position on the global stage diplomatically, militarily and economically.
The president further called out Chinese President Xi, in seeking to enforce the strength of democracies in the face of growing authoritarianism around the world.
“Autocracy’s grown weaker not stronger, name me a world leader who would change places with Xi Jinping, name me one!” the president shouted. “Name me one!”
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