The Pentagon shot down an unknown object over frozen waters around Alaska on Friday according to U.S. officials, under the orders of President Biden.
White House spokesman, John Kirby, confirmed the action during a news conference and said that the president took the step “out of an abundance of caution.”
The object was traveling at an altitude that posed a potential threat to civilian aircraft and was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet using a sidewinder air-to-air missile.
The U.S. government does not yet know who owned or sent the object. Although some officials believe it to be a balloon, it broke into pieces when it hit the frozen sea, adding to the mystery of its identity.
U.S. radar picked up the object around 9 p.m. Alaska time on Thursday, and a U.S. Northern Command sent an AWACS surveillance plane and an aerial refueling plane to track it. The object had traversed over land in Alaska and was over the sea, heading toward the North Pole, traveling at 20-40 mph, when it was struck down.
The Pentagon press secretary, Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said that the object was much lower in altitude than the Chinese spy balloon shot down by the U.S. last week and had the potential to interfere with air traffic over Alaska.
While senior White House officials are split on whether the object came from China, General Ryder said that it was traveling in a northeastern direction when Northern Command began tracking it. The Pentagon had made no effort to contact China.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said in a statement on Twitter that he was briefed on the matter and supported the decision to take action.
China and the US are in disagreement over the status of a massive white orb that was shot down on Saturday by the U.S. Air Force over the Atlantic. While the U.S. claims it was a Chinese spy balloon, China says it was a meteorological research balloon that had gone off course.
The presence of the balloon prompted the Secretary of State to cancel a trip to China aimed at reducing tensions between the countries.
The Pentagon says the balloon was maneuverable and showed signs of changing course, leading the military to take action to prevent intelligence collection. China has threatened “further actions” in response to the U.S. use of force.
U.S. officials have condemned the presence of the balloon as a clear violation of international law and a threat to U.S. national security. They have also called on the Chinese government to immediately cease this hostile and unlawful activity and to provide a full explanation of the balloon’s origins and intended purpose.
The U.S. government is currently working with its partners and allies to respond to this threat but has not disclosed any specific actions that it may take in response.
The discovery of the spy balloon has sparked a heated debate among experts and the general public, with some calling for a stronger U.S. response and others warning against a dangerous escalation of tensions with China.
The U.S. government has emphasized the importance of maintaining a strong and united front with its allies in the face of this threat and has pledged to take all necessary measures to protect the country’s national security and sovereignty.
The use of spy balloons by foreign nations is not a new phenomenon, but the scale and scope of this operation by China are unprecedented and represent a serious escalation of tensions between the two countries.
The U.S. government and the international community will work together to ensure that these activities are brought to an end, and to ensure that U.S. airspace remains secure and protected against foreign interference.
For more information check the official press release from the department of defense.