President Biden on Thursday said that the suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over much of the U.S. last week was “not a major breach,” comparing it to intelligence gathering conducted by countries around the world.
“It’s not a major breach. Look, the total amount of intelligence gathering that’s going on by every country around the world is overwhelming,” Biden said in an interview with Noticias Telemundo that airs this evening.
Biden, however, does acknowledge that in the case of last week’s incident, China sending the balloon was “a violation of international law.”
“It’s our airspace. And once it comes into our space, we can do what we want with it,” the president said.
Biden ordered a U.S. military takedown of the suspected spy balloon off the South Carolina coast on Saturday after it was first reported flying over Montana last Wednesday, with the ordeal intensifying tensions between Washington and Beijing in the meantime. The balloon had antennas to collect communications and solar panels to power its sensors as it traversed the U.S., a State Department official said earlier on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the House unanimously approved a resolution condemning the Chinese Communist Party’s use of a spy balloon over the continental U.S., labeling the situation “a brazen violation of United States sovereignty.”
The president faced a rash of criticism over the weekend, mostly from Republicans, who said he acted too slowly to shoot down the balloon. Biden has since defended his position, saying he was advised to wait to shoot it down until it went over water to avoid any potential deaths on the ground.
The Biden administration has worked to recover the balloon in order to “exploit” what they can from it, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday. The U.S. reportedly took action to limit the capabilities of the balloon while it was in the air before shooting it down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, stopping it from collecting U.S. communications.
Also in the Noticias Telemundo interview on Thursday, Biden addressed potentially running for president against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former President Trump, saying he doesn’t see a difference between the two should either become the Republican nominee in 2024.
“No, I don’t think so, because I think that they have a similar modus operandi, a similar way in which they work,” the president said when asked if there’s a difference.
The president was interviewed by Noticias Telemundo Thursday during a trip Florida, the state where DeSantis and Trump live, for a speech on protecting Social Security and Medicare at the University of Tampa.
Updated at 6:45 p.m.