US probing if flying objects had a 'surveillance aspect'

World Tuesday 14/February/2023 15:11 PM
By: DW
US probing if flying objects had a 'surveillance aspect'

Washington: In a press conference on Monday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby justified shooting down three unidentified flying objects in recent days, as they posed a risk to civilian air travel.

On February 4, the US first shot down what it believes was a Chinese "spy balloon." Over the weekend, the US military shot down another three unidentified flying objects that were discovered over North American airspace.

What is the latest?
Kirby provided more details on the recent operations, saying the US government "couldn't rule out" whether the unidentified objects were carrying out surveillance.

"We don't know for sure whether they had a surveillance aspect to them, but we can't rule it out," he said. He said US decisions to shoot down unidentified objects were "based purely and simply on what was in the best interests of the American people."

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said there is "no indication" that alien activity is behind recent unidentified objects over the US.

"There have been questions and concerns about this but there is no -- again, no -- indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity."

At an earlier press conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he views "some sort of pattern" in the downed aerial objects over North America. He said rescue efforts are underway after an aerial object was shot down over northwestern Yukon territory in Canada.

Trudeau called the unidentified objects a "very serious situation."

The first of the three recent unidentified objects was shot down over the northwestern US state of Alaska. A second was shot down over Canada on Saturday by the US military in coordination with Canadian authorities.

The third object was taken out over Lake Huron which is bordered on one side by the US state of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario on the other.

That object has not yet been located, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police. "I am not aware that we have located the debris at this point in the Lake Huron incident," Sean McGillis

When the massive Chinese spy balloon was discovered flying over the US earlier this month, concerns were sparked about surveillance activities over sensitive military sites on US soil.

The White House said it has determined that China has an aerial surveillance program linked to the People's Liberation Army (PLA), but said it has not yet identified the most recently shot-down flying objects.

Beijing, meanwhile, said the US deployed 10 balloons over Chinese airspace in the last year. Kirby said Monday that there "is no US surveillance aircraft in Chinese airspace."      

Reuters news agency reported that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken may meet with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi during this week's Munich Security Conference amid the balloon spat.

Meanwhile, the Democratic leader of the US Senate Chuck Schumer announced that Congress will take a bipartisan view of unidentified aerial objects that have made their way into US and Canadian airspace.

"Congress is going to conduct a careful bipartisan examination at these various incidents and also look into why US authorities didn't find these Chinese surveillance balloons sooner," Schumer said.

Republicans and some of President Joe Biden's fellow Democrats in Congress have demanded more information, and expressed frustration after briefings by administration officials offered very little information.