Biden pledges to protect America after Chinese balloon incident

The balloon traversed U.S. and Canadian airspace last week before it was shot down off the coast of the Carolinas on Saturday, just days before Biden addressed Congress.

China has claimed it was a weather balloon that went off course and has lashed out at the U.S. over shooting it down. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to Beijing over the incident.

The flap triggered bipartisan uproar at China on Capitol Hill — where confronting Beijing has garnered support from both parties — and calls for more information over the balloon and the administration’s handling of it.

Biden said last week he ordered the military to shoot down the balloon before Saturday, but top brass recommended waiting until it was over water so it would minimize risk to people on the ground. The military is now working to retrieve the debris.

Administration officials are set to brief lawmakers on the balloon this week, and a Senate panel is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on it.

Biden added Tuesday night that his administration has put the U.S. in “the strongest position in decades to compete” with Beijing. The U.S., he said, would cooperate where possible.

He added that he makes “no apologies that we are investing to make America strong” and competing with China. He touted efforts to modernize the military “to safeguard stability and deter aggression.”

Biden also highlighted the administration’s efforts to aid Ukraine to repel Russia’s invasion, a message that comes as some Republican factions question the need to continue to aid Kyiv.

As the war nears its one-year mark, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion was “a test for the ages” for the U.S. and its allies in Europe.

“One year later, we know the answer,” he said.

Biden called out Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, who sat in the House gallery for the speech.

“We are united in our support for your country,” Biden pledged. “We’re going to stand with you as long as it takes.”

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