United States President Joe Biden said the three flying objects shot down over North America in February 2023 were “most likely” unrelated to China’s spy balloon program.
The issue was officially addressed for the first time by Biden on February 16, 2023.
“We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country,” Biden said.
He added: “The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”
On February 4, 2023, a United States F-22 fighter jet shot down a high-altitude balloon that was flying over the United States. After investigating the debris, it was found to be a Chinese balloon carrying sensors capable of collecting signals intelligence. Beijing denied the spying allegations, claiming instead that it was a weather balloon.
Sailors recovering the remains of the Chinese high-altitude balloon (U.S. Navy photo)
In the week following the incident, the US Air Force destroyed three suspicious objects over the US states of Alaska and Michigan, as well as Canada’s territory of Yukon.
The exact nature of these objects was not specified. Two were described as cylindrical, the third as octagonal.
“We’re calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason,” said General Glen VanHerck, the head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). “I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out.”
NORAD is a bi-national organization responsible for defending the airspaces of the United States of America and Canada.