US shoots down suspicious high-altitude object in Alaskan waters | International
An F-22 of the United States Air Force has shot down a suspicious object that was approaching Alaska through the air at high altitude, the White House reported this Friday, without giving details about the origin. The order to tear down the object has been given by the president, Joe Biden. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, who made the announcement, said it was a smaller object than the Chinese balloon shot down last week.
"I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaskan airspace within the last 24 hours," Kirby said. “The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet (about 12,000 meters) and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flights. Out of an abundance of caution and the recommendation of the Pentagon, President [Joe] Biden ordered the military to shoot down the object and they did so as it entered our territorial waters. Those waters are now frozen. But within territorial airspace and over territorial waters, combat aircraft shot down the object in the last hour," he added this Friday. The demolition occurred at 1:45 p.m. Washington time, 7:45 p.m. in mainland Spain.
Kirby has referred to a subsequent Pentagon press conference, but has provided a few more details. He can't characterize the new object as a balloon (although he has slipped up calling it that a couple of times). It is about the size of a small car, he has said. For now there are no indications that the new object had surveillance equipment or its own propulsion, he added. The Chinese balloon had maneuverability that this object apparently did not. It was unmanned, as an Air Force fighter could verify on a flight prior to the demolition.
The main concern about this new object is the risk it posed to civilian flights, but it did not pose a military threat. The United States hopes to recover the remains on the frozen waters of Alaska in the northeast of the state, near the border with Canada in the Arctic, and analyze them to draw additional conclusions.
The risk to civilian flights is what enabled Biden to order immediate intervention. “We are going to remain vigilant about our airspace,” Kirby has said. "The president assumes as paramount his obligation to protect our national security interests," he added. The president received information about the object on Thursday afternoon, after two fighter jets flew over it.
The Pentagon has given little additional information about the object and has referred to the recovery and analysis of the remains. He did point out that the US Navy has already recovered a significant amount of debris from the Chinese balloon shot down last week and that it is being processed. The Pentagon spokesman has assured that with this they have learned a lot about the Chinese device and that will allow them to be detected more easily in the future.
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The Chinese balloon incident has soured relations between Beijing and Washington. Following the sighting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off a trip to China, where he planned to arrive last Sunday. And Biden warned Tuesday during his State of the Union address: "If China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country."
China defends itself and maintains that it was a civilian weather balloon with scientific research functions. The State Department responded Thursday that the balloon carried antennas capable of intercepting communications and solar panels large enough to generate power to power intelligence-gathering sensors. He says the high-resolution images the Air Force took as the balloon passed through the United States last week show equipment designed for intelligence purposes, not the kind used in weather balloons.
The State Department claims that Beijing surveillance devices have flown over more than 40 countries on five continents. In addition, it affirms that the Chinese balloon was equipped with instruments apparently capable of intercepting and geolocating communication signals, without specifying what type. As Blinken explained, the United States has shared information with dozens of countries around the world, both from Washington and through embassies.
In addition, Washington assures that the company that manufactures the balloon, whose name has not been revealed, maintains ties with the Chinese army and that it is considering taking action against the entities linked to the incursion into US airspace.
The Pentagon assures that there have been four previous balloons that have flown over US territory as part of a Chinese program that has been running for several years, three during the presidency of Donald Trump and another with that of Biden.
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