A high-altitude object has been shot by the United States over Alaska, White House officials said. This comes just days after a Chinese spy balloon was shot down by the US and the fallen debris was recovered. US NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said, “The Department of Defence was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in last 24 hours. Fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command took down the object within the last hour.” He said the object was shot at approximately 1930 GMT and it fell on the northern side of Alaska in the Arctic Ocean within the United States’ territorial space.
“We do not know who owns it, whether it’s state-owned or corporate-owned or privately owned. We do expect to be able to recover the debris, since it fell not only within our territorial space, but on what we believe is frozen water, so a recovery effort will be made. And we’re hopeful that it will be successful and we can learn a little bit more about it,” he said.
Responding to a reporter if the object’s appearance was like the Chinese balloon, Kirby said, “No, it was much much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday.”
“The way it was described to me was roughly the size of a small car. As opposed to a payload that was like two or three buses’ size, right? So, much much smaller and no significant payload, if you will.”
He added that the object was flying at an altitude of 40,000ft and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight.
“Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object,” Kirby added.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said, “The object was first detected inside American airspace on Thursday and posed a reasonable threat to civilian air traffic. F-22 fighter jet deployed an AIM-9X missile to take down the object and the US Northern Command is beginning recovery operations now.”
Meanwhile, a State Department US official said on Thursday that the country will seek to take action against individuals or companies linked with China’s military that supported the flight of a spy balloon into the airspace last week. Washington is confident that the manufacturer of the Chinese balloon shot down by the US forces last week, had a “direct relationship” with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre repeated that the United States would look at taking action against such entities. However, the White House has not specified what measures are under consideration. Jean-Pierre told reporters that the United States would also look at broader efforts to “expose and address” China’s larger surveillance activities that pose a threat to the national security of the United States as well as its allies and partners.
The FBI, which is investigating the spy balloon row, told reporters that it had obtained only limited physical evidence and did not yet have enough information to assess its capabilities.
“It’s very early for us in this process, and the evidence that has been recovered and brought to the FBI is extremely limited,” a bureau official said.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman had said Thursday that the flight of the Chinese balloon was yet another sign of Beijing’s efforts to reshape the international order.
“This irresponsible act put on full display what we’ve long recognised: that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad,” Sherman told a hearing of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
(With inputs from agencies)
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