The objects shot down over North America over the past several days were unmanned and did not appear to send communication signals, the United States has said, as questions persist about the nature and the origin of the aircraft.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that while Washington has no “specific reason” to suspect that the objects were conducting surveillance, it is not able to rule out the possibility.
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“We assessed whether they posed any kinetic threat to people on the ground; they did not,” Kirby said.
“We assessed whether they were sending any communication signals; we detected none,” he said. “We looked to see whether they were manoeuvering or had any propulsion capabilities; we saw no signs of that.
“And we made sure to determine whether or not they were manned; they were not.”
Since Friday, three “high-altitude” objects have been detected in North American airspace and brought down in the US and Canada.
The objects were shot down just days after an alleged Chinese spy balloon was also downed off the coast of South Carolina, drawing concern from the American public and policymakers and fuelling tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“Obviously, there is some sort of pattern in there,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Monday. “The fact that we are seeing this in a significant degree over the past week is a cause for interest and close attention.”
A US fighter jet, working in coordination with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, a joint US-Canada military agency, shot the object down over the northwestern Canadian territory of the Yukon on Saturday.
A day earlier, US officials announced that an object the size of a small car had been taken down over the northwestern US state of Alaska, which shares a border with the Yukon. A third object was shot down above Lake Huron in the US Midwest on Sunday.
During a news conference in Whitehorse, the Yukon’s capital, on Monday, Trudeau stressed that Canada is focused on recovering the object that was in its airspace. Then teams will assess “whether it’s hazardous”, he said.
“We’ve deployed significant resources here to be able to recover the object as well as [the] diplomatic and international engagements going on to find more information and get solutions on this,” Trudeau added.
US officials have stressed that the objects are not proven to be linked to the Chinese balloon. They were much smaller in size and flew at lower altitudes, where they posed a threat to civilian aviation.
But Kirby said the Chinese balloon prompted the US and Canada to further scrutinise their airspace and enhance their radar capabilities, which “may at least partially explain the increase in the objects that have been detected”.
Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from the White House on Monday afternoon, said the incidents have left “the American public looking for some answers”.
“We still are not told whether it is corporate-owned, state-owned or what these objects are,” Halkett said. “There’s still a lot of unanswered questions.”
The incidents have renewed interest in so-called unidentified aerial phenomena. But the White House ruled out one theory to explain the recent objects on Monday: It’s not aliens.
While some of the descriptions circulating of the objects may resemble the spaceships of science fiction, spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said there was “no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity” associated with the takedowns.
Meanwhile, relations between the US and China continue to be under strain following the Biden administration’s decision to shoot down the balloon early this month.
On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a news briefing that Washington had flown high-altitude balloons over its territory without permission 10 times in the past year.
But that allegation was rejected by Kirby, who said, “We’re not flying surveillance balloons over China.”