Washington: Amidst growing tension with China in the wake of the downing of a suspected spy balloon, US President Joe Biden on Thursday underscored the need for an open line of communication with Beijing.

“I’ve said, since the beginning of my administration, we seek competition not conflict with China. We’re not looking for a new Cold War. But I make no apologies and we will compete. We will responsibly manage that competition so that it doesn’t veer into conflict.

“This episode underscores the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our diplomats and our military professionals,” Biden said at the White House, his first after the recent shooting down of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the American airspace.

“Our diplomats will be engaging further and I will remain in communication with (Chinese) President Xi (Jinping). I’m grateful for the work of the last several weeks of our intelligence, diplomatic, and military professionals who have proved once again to be the most capable in the world. I want to thank you all,” he said.

Biden said he ordered the shooting down of the Chinese surveillance balloon as soon as it was safe to do so. “The military advised against shooting it down over land because of the sheer size of it. It was the size of multiple school buses, and it posed a risk to people on the ground if it was shot down where people lived,” he said.

“Instead, we tracked it closely, we analyzed its capabilities, and we learned more about how it operates. Because we knew its path, we were able to protect sensitive sites against collection. We waited until it was safely over water which would not only protect civilians, but also enable us to recover substantial components for further analytics. Then we shot it down, sending a clear message,” he said.

“The violation of American sovereignty is unacceptable,” he asserted.

This past Friday, the US put restrictions on six firms that directly support the People’s Liberation Army Aerospace Programme that includes airships and balloons, denying them access to US technology. The US briefed its diplomatic partners and allies around the world on what they know about China’s program and where their balloons have flown.

“Some of them have also raised their concerns directly with China. Our experts have lifted components of the Chinese balloon’s payload off the ocean floor. We’re analyzing them as I speak. What we learn will strengthen our capabilities. Now, we’ll also continue to engage with China as we have throughout the past two weeks,” he said.

“Since the beginning of my administration, we seek competition not conflict with China. We’re not looking for a new Cold War. But I make no apologies and we will compete. We will responsibly manage that competition so that it doesn’t veer into conflict. This episode underscores the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our diplomats and our military professionals,” Biden said.

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