Washington says it has recovered the first debris at sea and does not intend to return it to Beijing

They floated “on the surface of the sea”. The first debris from the Chinese balloon shot down on Saturday was recovered by teams deployed off the coast of South Carolina, in the southeast of the country, a White House spokesperson said on Monday (February 6th).

According to John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council of the American executive, the weather conditions “ had not so far made it possible to carry out underwater operations to recover this aircraft, presented as a spy balloon by Washington. Furthermore, he indicated that the United States did not have “intent to render” debris collected to China.

General Glen VanHerck, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad), said a US Navy ship was surveying the radius in which the debris fell. The balloon itself was about 60 meters high and carried a kind of basket weighing more than a ton, the official said at a separate press conference. The debris will be carefully studied, added the general.

While US President Joe Biden is criticized by the Republican opposition for having, according to them, taken too long to shoot down the machine, John Kirby assured that this delay had given Americans “a great opportunity to better understand and study” the balloon, while waiting for the debris to deliver further information.

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Other Chinese balloons observed during Donald Trump’s tenure

He then assured that the United States had “took measures to limit the capacity to collect [de données] that this balloon would have had over our sensitive military sites”. Mr. Kirby finally said that the Biden administration had “contacted senior officials from the previous administration and [avait] offered briefings » about the Chinese balloon overflights that took place while Donald Trump was president.

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According to the Pentagon, Chinese balloons flew over American territory three times, for brief periods, during the presidency of Donald Trump, and once, also for a short time, at the start of Joe Biden’s mandate.

State Department spokesman Ned Price also assured Monday that the United States had had contact with Chinese authorities since the downing of the balloon, but said that no « discussion » took place on the rescheduling of the visit of the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to China.

“Even in these times of heightened tensions, we want to be able to pick up the phone and chat”he told the press, reiterating that the United States wanted ” maintain “ dialogue with Beijing. He further specified that the United States was in contact with its allies and partners to inform them of the information gathered around the alleged Chinese spy balloon.

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The World with AFP

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