Chinese President Xi Jinping does not want to damage relations with the US over the “spy” balloon shot down over North America, President Joe Biden has said.
“I think the last thing that Xi wants is to fundamentally rip the relationship with the United States and with me,” Mr Biden told Sky News’ affiliate NBC News.
In remarks to the nation earlier, Mr Biden said three unidentified objects shot down by the US did not appear to have been used for spying and were likely tied to benign purposes.
Instead, the objects were “most likely” linked to private companies or research institutions, according to the US president.
Tensions have been mounting between the US and China after Washington shot down what it called a Chinese “spy” balloon over North American airspace.
The White House previously said China is running a “high-altitude balloon programme” for intelligence gathering.
Three other unidentified objects were later shot down by US fighter jets, one over Alaska, another over Canada and a third that plunged into Lake Huron.
Mr Biden said “nothing right now suggests they were related to the Chinese spy balloon programme, or they were surveillance vehicles from any other country”.
He said the intelligence community believes the objects were “most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions”.
They might have been spotted due to enhanced radar in response to the Chinese balloon, he said, adding that his team were working on new parameters on when to launch missiles at such aircraft.
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‘We are not looking for a new Cold War’
The president said he made no apologies for protecting America’s skies and said the US would improve its capacity to detect unmanned objects in its airspace.
But he said: “We are not looking for a new Cold War with China.”
The US president said he would speak to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about the balloon, adding: “I hope we are going to get to the bottom of this, but I make no apologies for taking down that balloon.”
Beijing says the 60m (200ft) balloon was for monitoring weather conditions, but Washington says it clearly was a surveillance balloon with a massive undercarriage containing electronics.
It has also claimed the US has flown 10 objects over its airspace – a claim Washington denies.