US says it shot down ‘high altitude object’ over Alaska | Politics News

Officials say Washington does not know the origin of the object, which was brought down days after an alleged Chinese ‘spy’ balloon flew over the US.

The United States shot down an object “about the size of a small car” over the northwestern state of Alaska, US officials said, noting that its origin was not immediately known.

Friday’s incident came less than a week after US forces shot down a purportedly Chinese surveillance balloon after it spent several days crossing the country. Beijing said the device was a weather research aircraft that “accidentally” flew into US airspace.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that a “tall object” was flying at 12,000m (40,000ft) over Alaska on Friday, posing a threat to civil aviation, and was shot down on the orders of US President Joe Biden.

“We don’t know who owns this object,” Kirby said during a news conference, adding that it was significantly smaller than the Chinese balloon that flew above the ground last week.

“We’re calling this a facility because that’s the best description we have right now,” he said. “We have no information to confirm the stated purpose of this facility.”

Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder said the US military was working to remove debris from the facility.

“At this time we have no additional details about the facility, including any description of its capabilities, purpose or origin,” Ryder told reporters.

He noted that the object was “not similar in size or shape” to the Chinese balloon that was brought down from the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.

When asked if there were any indications that the object over Alaska could be connected to China, Ryder reiterated that the Pentagon does not know where it came from. “The primary concern was again the potential danger to civilian flight, so again we’ll know more later,” he said.

Later on Friday, the Canadian Prime Minister said Justin Trudeau he was informed of the presence of the object in US airspace and supported Washington’s decision to shoot it down.

“Our military and intelligence services will always work together, including through [the North American Aerospace Defense Command]to keep people safe,” he tweeted.

The Chinese balloon shot down last weekend was about 60m (200ft) high and carried a long sensor package below, which the head of the US Army’s Northern Command, General Glen VanHerck, said this week was about the size of a small regional jet.

While Beijing said the balloon was an “unmanned civilian airship” primarily gathering meteorological data, Washington condemned its presence in US airspace as an “unacceptable” violation of the country’s sovereignty.

US officials said the device was “clearly for intelligence surveillance”.

The incident, which caused US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a planned trip to China, fueled rising tensions between the two already intensely competitive superpowers.

Ties between Beijing and Washington have soured over a number of issues in recent years, including trade, the status of Taiwan, Chinese claims in the South China Sea and continued US pressure against growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The Biden administration also faced condemnation from Republicans over the balloon episode, who questioned why the president did not order military to shoot down the device earlier.

Biden said his administration was not seeking conflict with China, which condemned the decision to shoot down the balloon, but repeatedly warned Beijing not to threaten US sovereignty.

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