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White House

Vice President Harris says the Chinese spy balloon 'was not helpful' amid blowback over incident

Harris sat for an interview with NBC News while in Germany for the Munich Security Conference.

MUNICH — Vice President Kamala Harris said Friday that the alleged Chinese spy balloon was "not helpful," addressing concerns over President Joe Biden's decision to shoot it down earlier this month.

“We will maintain the perspective that we have in terms of what should be the relationship between China and the United States,” Harris said in an exclusive interview with NBC News. “That is not going to change, but surely and certainly that balloon was not helpful, which is why we shot it down.”

Speaking to NBC News while in Germany for the Munich Security Conference this weekend, Harris was asked why the U.S. shot down that apparatus and other aerial objects when the federal government had no policy in place.

"As it relates to the Chinese balloon, we shot it down because it needed to be shot down, because we were confident that it was used by China to spy on the American people," Harris said.

The vice president also repeated President Joe Biden's remarks Thursday that the administration wants to sharpen the rules to address unidentified objects and help institute global standards on the issue.

When asked about the impact of the incident on U.S.-China relations, Harris emphasized that Biden has reached out to the Chinese about the incident and is expected to speak to President Xi Jinping.

Harris added when asked why the administration didn’t take action before the balloon crossed into the U.S.: "We wanted to do it in a way that would ensure that there was no harm to the American people, but in a way that we could also preserve what we could then investigate from a forensic perspective."

Harris' remarks come after Biden said in an exclusive interview with NBC News on Thursday that he did not think it was an overreaction to shoot down three unidentified objects over North America in the days after taking down the Chinese spy balloon.

Biden also said he plans to speak with Xi, but declined in the interview to say when.

“I think the last thing that Xi wants is to fundamentally rip the relationship with the United States and with me,” Biden said.

Biden's televised remarks Thursday were his first about the Chinese spy balloon and unidentified objects shot down by the U.S. military in the skies above North America.

“I gave the order to take down these three objects due to hazards to civilian commercial air traffic and because we could not rule out the surveillance risk of sensitive facilities,” Biden said.

In her interview, Harris also addressed other issues, including rejecting the idea that Americans won't feel as eager to help Ukraine amid ongoing inflation as that country's war against Russia enters a second year.

Harris mentioned atrocities such as when a woman at a maternity hospital was killed as she prepared to give birth last year.

"I know the American people feel a sense of moral outrage and a sense of responsibility for our nation to stand with the Ukrainian people around these atrocities," she said. "And I’m confident in that."

Andrea Mitchell reported from Munich, and Rebecca Shabad reported from Washington.