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US says no ‘indication’ flying objects shot down were part of Chinese spy program

The US said Tuesday there was not any indication that three unidentified flying objects recently downed by American military jets were part of China's spy balloon program.

“We haven’t seen any indication or anything that points specifically to the idea that these three objects were part of the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) spy balloon program, or that they were definitively involved in external intelligence collection efforts,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a news conference.

The US last week shot down three unidentified objects after they were detected in US and Canadian air space. The incidents came days after the US shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4.

China has claimed the aircraft, but said it was a weather balloon that blew off course.

The US military shot down an object Friday off the northern coast of the state of Alaska, while the second was downed Saturday above northern Canada. A third was shot down Sunday above Lake Huron near the Canadian border.

The US has not publicly identified any of the three objects nor attributed ownership.

The Biden administration has said the initial suspected surveillance aircraft was part of a sprawling fleet of Chinese reconnaissance balloons used to surveil more than 40 countries across five continents.

Kirby attributed the discovery of the three other aircraft, in part, to increased vigilance of US and Canadian airspace following the discovery of the balloon shot down Feb. 4, saying the countries have "been more closely scrutinizing that airspace, including enhancing our radar capabilities."

Washington and Ottawa operate a joint military command known as North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which monitors the airspace above Canada, the continental US and Alaska.

The three unattributed aircraft were flying at a lower altitude than the balloon shot down above US territorial waters, and were "right on the border of" altitudes used for commercial air traffic, said Kirby.

Source: Anadolu Agency