The US military shot down a high altitude object hovering over Alaska on Friday, a week after a massive Chinese balloon was taken down off the coast of South Carolina after raising fears of spying by the Communist rival.
The object, which was the size of a car, was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed significant risk to civilian flight operations, the National Security Council concluded. The object was shot down on the orders of President Joe Biden, who later described the operation as a 'success'.
Capabilities, Origin and Purpose
At this point, the US has not drawn conclusions about the capabilities, purpose or origin of the flying object and it has not attributed it to China. The officials will recover and analyze the debris of the flying object, which was taken down near the Canadian border.
The US officials said they have confirmation that the object did not belong to the US military or government.
"The Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours ... Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object, and they did. And it came inside our territorial waters â and those waters right now are frozen â but inside territorial airspace and over territorial waters. Fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command took down the object within last hour," John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the presence of the object was picked up on ground radar Thursday. Military jets were scrambled in the aftermath, and upon Biden's orders later, F-22 fighter aircraft shot down the object.
The F-22 jet used an AIM-9X missile to shoot down the flying object. It was the same type of missile that was used in bringing down the Chinese balloon off the coast of South Carolina last week.
"It was much, much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday ... The way it was described to me was roughly the size of a small car, as opposed to a payload that was like two or three buses sized ... no significant payload, if you will," Kirby added, according to CNN.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it enforced a flight restriction in the area around Deadhorse, Alaska, after the object was spotted.
The 'Spy Balloon'
The US Airforce F-22 fighter jet shot down the Chinese spy balloonthat floated across American airspace, eight days and 4,000 miles after it first crossed the US border. The balloon was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Debris of the balloon and its payload were salvaged off the coast of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina a day after it was shot down.
Though China reiterated that the airship was meant for weather research and it accidentally drifted into the US territory, the US holds the view that it was a sophisticated spy ship with advanced tech to monitor US military installations. The balloon had traversed the breadth of the country, hovering over territories that host many of the secret US military sites.
Worsening Ties With China
The balloon incident worsened the already strained relations between China and the US. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was supposed to travel to China for a crucial visit, but the schedule was scrapped following the row over the shooting down of the balloon.
China responded angrily to the shooting down of the gigantic balloon, adding that Washington was overhyping the incident. "China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law. We do not accept any groundless speculation and hype," Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party said.