At State of the Union, Biden said he won’t tolerate Chinese spying. He should consult Florida’s Rubio | Opinion

An emboldened President Biden only alluded to the suspected spy balloon as “an incident last week” involving the Chinese government during his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

A little too coy, but Biden issued a stern warning.

“Make no mistake: as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did.”

Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, rightly disagrees. He is among the leading Republican critics of the Biden administration’s handling of the Chinese spy — or weather — balloon allowed to cross into U.S. air space days before being shot down Saturday off South Carolina’s coast.

Of course, it’s political. But we trust that Rubio has a deeper understanding of the threat China poses to the United States. The specter of Chinese espionage has precedence in Rubio’s state.

Rubio, whose position on the intelligence committee makes him a natural spokesman on the topic, made the rounds on Sunday-morning talk shows to questioning why the Chinese balloon was not downed once discovered and why the American public was not informed sooner about a runaway balloon flying overhead?

Good questions both.

Rubio will be among a group of select national leaders being briefed about the balloon incident, which happened just before Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China, which, ultimately was canceled.

Biden should have been more forthcoming in his address about the balloon incident, illuminating his administration’s actions and acknowledging that this marked at least the fifth time in recent years, reaching back to the Trump administration, that Beijing has breached the nation’s airspace using such technology.

The Washington Post reported that NORAD commander Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, who oversees the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told reporters during a news briefing: “I will tell you that we did not detect those threats. And that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.”

He said that intelligence entities alerted him as to the presence of those balloons after that fact. That’s unacceptable.

The Chinese insist that the balloon shot down during the weekend was a weather balloon, and that the United States overreacted. They have also made veiled threats. But another balloon, now over Latin America, makes their excuse sound hollow.

As we enter this stage of fractured diplomacy, Rubio’s input should be taken seriously. Not only because of his position on the intelligence committee, but also because the actions of communist and totalitarian governments are his wheelhouse.

Florida’s senior senator also is no stranger to the possibility of Chinese spying.

In 2020, a Chinese national, Lu Jing, was convicted after being found the year before on the grounds of Mar-a-Lago during Donald Trump’s presidency. Lu was chased off by a security guard but returned through a side entrance and took more pictures. She was convicted, however, of resisting arrest.

In 2019, Yujing Zhang, a 33-year-old Shanghai business consultant, was arrested and charged with unlawfully entering Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and lying to federal agents. She was convicted on both counts by a 12-member jury in Florida federal court.

In 2020, three more Chinese nationals were sentenced to a year in prison for entering a restricted area at the Naval Air Station in Key West. They claimed to be tourists taking photos.

None was convicted of espionage. But the ease of access to sensitive areas must be of concern.

Rubio suggested on Sunday that it might be “intentional and symbolic” by the Chinese. His theory is now the GOP’s main talking point.

“They want to send a message to the world that anyone can enter U.S. air space without the U.S. being able to do much about it,” Rubio said on ABC’s “This Week.”

He has a point. Why were Americans not told of this latest balloon sooner, but days after it was spotted?

Later on “The Mike Gallagher Show,” the senator mocked the Chinese’s almost comical explanation.

“It seems so silly, in the 21st century, that they think they can get away with it with some level of deniability, including saying, ‘Well, we didn’t mean for it to go over there, but it’s just a balloon. You know how balloons are?’ ” according to transcripts from the show released by Rubio’s office.

Even his critics agree Rubio is an expert who has honed his skills by observing for decades the autocratic leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, in addition to Russia and China. We think the Biden administration should find him worth listening to.