Biden: 3 balloons shot down ‘most likely’ not used for spying

Posted at 1:38 PM, Feb 16, 2023

President Joe Biden addressed the takedowns of four recent objects over the skies of North America, saying the most recent three were “most likely” not being used for military surveillance.

The three objects were shot down after U.S. officials discovered a large balloon drifting over the nation two weeks ago. U.S. officials believe that the large balloon shot down on Feb. 4 was being used by China to conduct military surveillance. Biden said officials opted to wait to shoot the larger balloon down until it reached the coast due to its size.

Biden said he does not believe there is a link between the three objects shot down last weekend and the one shot down two weeks ago off the coast of South Carolina.

"The intelligence community's current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research,” Biden said.

Two of the objects were shot down near the Arctic – one off the Alaska coast and one over Canadian airspace. A third object was downed over Lake Huron, officials said.

Biden said the military is still working to find the downed objects on the ground.

"I gave the order to take down these three objects due to hazards to civilian commercial air traffic and because we could not rule out the surveillance risk of sensitive facilities,” he said.

White House coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said the three objects appeared vastly different than the balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4. Kirby said that China has been using high-altitude objects to conduct surveillance over the U.S. since the Trump administration, but those flyovers were not detected.

Biden said he intends to speak to Chinese President Jinping about the balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina. Officials said the object could maneuver and had communication equipment.