- The White House has said its decision to shoot down three objects flying over North American airspace this weekend was “out of an abundance of caution”.
- The objects posed a threat to commercial flights.
- They were downed in the “best interests” of the American people.
The US is scrutinizing its airspace more closely since the recent incursion of a suspected spy balloon from China. Beijing has alleged that Washington is flying its own balloons over China. Beijing has alleged that Washington is flying its own balloons over China.
On 4 February, a high-altitude balloon was downed off the coast of South Carolina after moving for days over the continental US. US officials said it had originated in China and was used to monitor sensitive military sites, but China denied the object was used for spying and said it was a weather monitoring device that had blown astray. Since that first incident, American fighter jets have shot down three more high-altitude objects in as many days – over Alaska, Canada’s Yukon territory, and Michigan – and the administration has been under pressure to identify the objects.
A Pentagon spokesman on Sunday appeared to suggest the US had not ruled out that the objects were of an extraterrestrial nature, but White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre denied this at Monday’s press briefing. “There is no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns,” she said.
Collection Of Debris
Efforts are currently under way to collect debris from where the objects fell, but Mr Kirby noted the objects in Alaska and Canada were in remote terrain and would be difficult to find in winter weather conditions, while the object in Michigan, he said, lay in the deep waters of Lake Huron. Officials have not yet been able to “definitively assess” these objects, but have not ruled out the possibility they were conducting surveillance, he said.
He accused Beijing of operating a “balloon programme for intelligence collection” that has ties to the Chinese military and was not detected during the Trump administration. “We detected it. We tracked it, and we have been carefully studying it to learn as much as we can,” he said. Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Sean McGillis said the search in the Yukon was “treacherous” as the debris was probably located in “rugged mountain terrain with a very high level of snowpack”.
Mr. McGillis added that there was a possibility the fragments from the Yukon and Lake Huron incidents might never be recovered because of their remote locations. Canadian Armed Forces Major-General Paul Prévost concurred that the three most recent objects to be shot down differed from the first balloon.
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