U.S. military fighter jets shot down three more flying objects over North America since taking down a Chinese spy balloon on February 4.
General Glen VanHerck is head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The command is responsible for protecting the airspace over the United States and Canada. VanHerck told reporters that the military has not been able to identify what the three most recent objects are, how they stay in the air, or where they are coming from.
"We're calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason," VanHerck said.
He added that part of the reason for the repeated military actions is a state of “heightened alert.” The state of increased readiness follows the incident of the spy balloon from China that entered U.S. and Canadian airspace.
Since then, fighter jets have shot down three “unidentified objects” over three days. U.S. military officials say they presented no security threats, but so little was known about them that they were ruling nothing out.
Last Friday, a U.S. fighter jet shot down an object about the size of a small car off the coast of northeastern Alaska. The unidentified object was flying at 12,000 meters posing a risk to civilian air traffic. "We don't know who owns this object," said White House spokesman John Kirby. He added that it was unclear where the object came from.
One day later, American and Canadian officials ordered a U.S. fighter plane to shoot down an unidentified cylindrical object over Canada’s Yukon territory. Canadian officials did not call it a balloon. They said it was smaller than the Chinese balloon shot down off South Carolina's coast a week ago although it was similar in appearance.
On Sunday, another U.S. jet shot down an octagonal object over Lake Huron on the U.S.-Canada border. Although it did not present a military threat, the object could interfere with civilian air traffic as it was traveling at 6,100 meters. Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the U.S. military spokesman, added that the object might have had surveillance abilities.
The U.S. defense official said that the object was believed to be the same as one recently observed over Montana near sensitive military areas. The Montana incident led to the closure of U.S. airspace.
All three objects were much smaller in size, different in appearance and flew at lower altitudes than the suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down over the Atlantic Ocean.
Melissa Dalton is the U.S. assistant defense secretary for homeland defense. She said, “We have been more closely scrutinizing our airspace at these altitudes, including…radar, which may at least partly explain the increase.”
China denied balloons being used for spying
China has denied its balloons were being used for spying. Chinese officials said the airship recently shot down was a weather balloon used for research.
But the U.S. said the balloon contained high-technology equipment designed to gather information. Officials added that it was part of a military-linked surveillance program that targeted over 40 countries around the world.
Japan recently said flying objects like the one shot down by the U.S. have been seen at least two times over northern Japan since 2020.
In Taiwan, local media have reported that mysterious white balloons have been seen over the island at least three times in the past two years.
And China described another balloon recently spotted over Latin America as a civilian airship used for research.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Hai Do adapted this report for VOA Learning English from Associated Press and Reuters sources.
Words in This Story
alert –n. a state of being ready to act if there is a threat or concerns about possible threats
cylindrical –adj. a shape that is circular in length, but is flat at its ends, something shaped like a normal can
octagonal –adj. shaped like an octagon: a shape with eight sides
surveillance –n. the activity of observing something or someone often to see if they are doing something wrong
altitude –n. the height something (such as an airplane or balloon) is above the sea level
scrutinize –v. to look at very closely
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