The United States said on Monday that it had recovered the first debris from the Chinese balloon.
And this, while the administration of Joe Biden has endeavored to contain the fallout from this episode both in the face of the Republican opposition and vis-à-vis Beijing.
"The question is not whether we trust China, the question is to decide where we can work together and where we are in opposition", assured the American president, questioned by journalists on his return. to the White House.
Joe Biden also recalled having made the decision to shoot down the alleged Chinese spy balloon last Wednesday but that the American military had advised him to wait until the craft was over the Atlantic, in American territorial waters. .
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Washington did not directly respond to the Chinese government's accusations on Sunday that the United States, by shooting down the balloon, which it presents as a civilian craft that has deviated from its trajectory, had "seriously affected and damaged" relations between the two country.
While defending its position of firmness, the United States even reiterated its desire to maintain the "open lines of communication" with its great strategic rival.
"Even in these times of heightened tensions, we want to be able to pick up the phone and talk" with the Chinese, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.
He assured that the United States had been in contact with the Chinese authorities since the downing of the balloon, while specifying that no "discussion" had taken place on the rescheduling of the visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken in China.
No 'intent to return' debris to Beijing
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, for his part, repeated Monday during a debate in Washington that “the United States was not seeking a new cold war” with China.
The United States is in contact with its allies and partners to keep them informed of the elements gathered around the alleged Chinese spy balloon, whose crossing of American territory captivated the country for several days.
Faced with Republican opposition quick to denounce the Biden administration's weakness vis-à-vis China, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby assured that the decision to wait before shooting down the balloon had given the Americans "a tremendous opportunity to better understand and study" the craft, while waiting for the debris to deliver other information.
He also assured that the United States had "taken measures to limit the collection capabilities (of data) that this balloon would have had above our sensitive military sites".
Teams deployed off the coast of South Carolina, in the southeast of the country, "recovered some debris from the surface of the sea", said John Kirby, adding that the "weather conditions" did not have allowed so far to carry out underwater recovery operations for this aircraft.
The official also indicated that the United States did not "intend to return" the debris collected to China.
Precedents under Donald Trump
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.
US shot down Chinese 'spy' balloon, Beijing 'reserves the right' to retaliate
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.
Another development: According to Mr. Kirby, the Biden administration “reached contact with senior officials of the previous administration and offered them briefings” about the Chinese balloon overflights that took place while Donald Trump was in prison. president.
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.