White House Defends Shootdowns of Unidentified Objects

The White House Defends Shootdowns its decision of three unidentified objects in as many days, even as it acknowledged that officials had no indication that the objects were intended for surveillance. The White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, said that the objects, including one shot down over Lake Huron, were unmanned and traveling at such a low altitude that they posed a risk to civilian commercial air traffic. Although officials have not ruled out the possibility that the objects were equipped for spying purposes, the Biden administration does not yet have evidence to confirm this.

The decision to shoot down the objects was made purely in the best interests of the American people, according to Kirby. Meanwhile, off the coast of South Carolina, where a high-altitude Chinese balloon was shot down earlier this month, crews have been able to recover significant debris from the site.

According to a statement from NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, crews have recovered “all of the priority sensor and electronics pieces identified as well as large sections of the structure.”

The series of objects, starting with a giant white orb detected over U.S. skies in late January, has puzzled American officials and stirred curiosity around the world. Although the three most recent objects differed in size, maneuverability and other characteristics from the surveillance balloon shot down off the Carolina coast, officials moved to eliminate each one from the sky, actions that Pentagon officials believe have no peacetime precedent.

The U.S. has been able to rule out any connection to extraterrestrial activity, according to the White House. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing, “There is no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns.”

Other Western nations, including the UK and Canada, are also trying to assess the spate of incidents. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government would do “whatever it takes” to protect the country, as the UK announced a security review. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “there is some sort of pattern” to the balloon and three other objects, although the U.S. has not echoed that claim.

The Chinese government alleged that more than 10 U.S. high-altitude balloons have flown in its airspace during the past year without permission, which American officials have denied. The Chinese allegation came after the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had crossed from above Alaska to South Carolina over a period of multiple days, sparking a new crisis in bilateral relations that have sunk to their lowest level in decades.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has cancelled a planned visit to China. However, there are several upcoming opportunities for high-level talks with the Chinese, including as early as this weekend. Blinken and Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party foreign policy chief, will both be in Munich, Germany, for the annual Munich Security Conference that begins Friday.

The latest of the three objects was shot down Sunday over Lake Huron after being detected a day earlier over Montana. On Friday, the North American Aerospace Defense Command detected and shot down an object near sparsely populated Deadhorse, Alaska. Later that evening, NORAD detected a second object flying at a high altitude over Alaska that crossed into Canadian airspace on Saturday and was over the Yukon when it was ordered to be shot down by Trudeau.