US shoots down another Chinese “balloon” as it ramps up spying accusations
Another unidentified object has been shot down over North American airspace, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed.
He said the latest object “violated Canadian airspace” and was shot down over Yukon in north-west Canada.
Both Canadian and US aircraft were scrambled to track down the object which Mr Trudeau says was taken out by a US F-22 fighter jet.
It is the third object to be shot down over North America in the last week.
The American military destroyed a Chinese balloon last weekend, and on Friday an unspecified object the size of a small car was shot down off Alaska.
Mr Trudeau confirmed on Saturday he gave the order and had spoken with US President Joe Biden.
“Canadian forces will now recover and analyse the wreckage of the object,” he wrote on Twitter.
The latest unspecified object was flying over central Yukon at about 40,000 ft (12,000m) and intercepted at about 15:41 local time on Saturday, defence minister Anita Anand told reporters.
She described it as “small” and “cylindrical”, but that recovery efforts are still being carried out to discover more details. Ms Anand said it was taken out “about 100 miles” from the US border, adding it posed a “reasonable threat to civil aviation”.
She said it “appears to be smaller than the one shot down off the coast of South Carolina” last Saturday – meaning the giant Chinese suspected spy balloon that measured 200ft (60m) tall. Posting earlier on Twitter, Prime Minister Trudeau thanked the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) which carries out air defence for the US and
Canada and led the mission. The White House said the object had been tracked and monitored “over the last 24 hours”. “Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of their militaries, President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau authorised it to be taken down,” it said. “The leaders discussed the importance of recovering the object in order to determine more details on its purpose or origin.” Giving more details on the mission to take down the object, the US Department of Defense confirmed two F-22 jets took off from a military base in Anchorage, Alaska and the object was shot down with an AIM 9X missile.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig Gen Pat Ryder added that the FBI will be “working closely” with Canadian police. Separately on Saturday, the US military also scrambled fighter jets over Montana as some airspace was closed – but it turned out to be a “radar anomaly” and nothing unusual was found.
The latest object’s appearance over North America comes just a week after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was also destroyed by the US. On Friday another unspecified object was tracked and shot down over Alaska at the orders of US President Biden. In a short statement, the military said US troops, including from the Alaska National Guard, were still conducting search and recovery activities on sea ice for Friday’s object.
It said it had no further details about the object’s capabilities, purpose or origin but confirmed the FBI is helping with the recovery near the Alaskan town of Deadhorse. “Arctic weather conditions, including wind chill, snow, and limited daylight, are a factor in this operation, and personnel will adjust recovery operations to maintain safety,” it added – and that the rescue operation will continue as weather permits.
Last weekend, defence officials told US media that debris from the Chinese balloon landed in 47ft (14m) of water – shallower than they had expected – near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. China has denied the balloon – which first entered US airspace on 28 January – was used for spying purposes, saying it was a weather device gone astray.
The US, however, said the balloon is part of a fleet of surveillance balloons that have flown over five continents.
The balloon incident has strained US-China relations, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelling a planned trip to Beijing.
Chinese officials on Friday accused the US of “political manipulation and hype”. In an interview on Thursday, President Biden defended his handling of the Chinese balloon, maintaining that it was not “a major breach”.