The top military commander overseeing North American airspace said Monday that some previous incursions by Chinese spy balloons during the Trump administration were not detected in real time, and the Pentagon learned of them only later.
One explanation, multiple U.S. officials said, is that some previous incursions were initially classified as “unidentified aerial phenomena,” Pentagon speak for U.F.O.s. As the Pentagon and intelligence agencies stepped up efforts over the past two years to find explanations for many of those incidents, officials reclassified some events as Chinese spy balloons.
Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, on Monday credited improved surveillance under the Biden administration with detecting the balloon that passed over the United States last week.
“We enhanced our capacity to be able to detect things that the Trump administration was unable to detect,” said Mr. Sullivan, speaking at an event hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.