President Joe Biden on Thursday outlined four new steps that his administration will take, as he aimed to address Americans’ concerns about aerial objects that have been shot from the sky this month.
“These steps will lead to safer and more secure skies for our air travelers, our military, our scientists and for people on the ground,” he said during a brief speech.
Biden proposed establishing a better inventory of unmanned airborne objects in U.S. airspace, improving the country’s capacity to detect such objects, updating the regulations for launching and maintaining such objects, and leading an effort to establish “common global norms in this largely unregulated space.”
U.S. fighter jets shot down three high-altitude objects that were above the U.S. and Canada over the prior weekend, with those moves following the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 4.
See: ‘Leading explanation’ for 3 objects shot down over weekend is they were ‘benign’ balloons, White House says
Also read: Spy balloon drama will impact U.S.-China relations. So what comes next?
Biden’s remarks came after some Republican lawmakers earlier in the week called for the president to talk directly to the American public about the recently downed objects.
In his address, the president repeated his administration’s point that nothing for now suggests the three recent objects are related to China’s spy balloon program or another country’s surveillance efforts.
“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.
A balloon declared “missing in action” by a hobbyist club — the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade — has emerged as a candidate to explain one of the three mystery objects shot down by heat-seeking missiles launched by Air Force fighters, according to an Aviation Week report.
Biden also reiterated another point made by other U.S. officials — that there hasn’t been a sudden increase in the number of objects in the sky.
“We’re now just seeing more of them, partially because of the steps we’ve taken to increase our radars, to narrow our radars,” the president said.
In addition, he deployed a line that he’s used before regarding Beijing, saying he seeks “competition, not conflict with China.”
“This episode underscores the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our diplomats and our military professionals. Our diplomats will be engaging further, and I will remain in communication with President Xi,” Biden said.
On Monday, the White House announced that Biden had directed an interagency team to study the broader policy implications around the detection, analysis and disposition of unidentified aerial objects.
See: White House says it has not yet identified 3 downed objects, launches UFO team
Before the president’s speech, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeated the administration’s point that tough conditions have made it difficult to get remnants from the three recently downed objects.