US admits 3 UFOs shot down could be ‘benign’

The three still-unidentified flying objects shot down by the US in the past week may have had only a “benign purpose”, the White House admitted on Tuesday, making the difference between them and China’s giant hot air balloon earlier flew over the US with a suspected surveillance target.

White House national security spokesman John said: “The intelligence community is looking at the leading explanation that these could be just balloons with some commercial or benign purpose.” Kirby.

Officials also revealed that a missile was fired at one of the three objects, on Lake Huron on Sundaymissed the intended target and landed in the water before the second one successfully hit the target.

The new details come as the Biden administration’s actions over the past two weeks face renewed scrutiny in Congress.

First, U.S. warplanes did not shoot down what officials described as a Chinese spy balloon until it had flown over much of the United States, citing concerns about safe. The military then deployed F-22 fighters with heat-seeking missiles to quickly shoot down harmless objects.

Taken together, these actions have raised political as well as security questions about whether the Biden administration overreacted after being criticized by Republicans for reacting too slowly. with big balloons or not.

Even as more information becomes available about these three objects, many questions remain about what they were, who sent them, and how the United States might respond to unidentified objects in the future. Still unresolved are questions about the original balloon, including its spying capabilities and whether it transmits signals as it flies over sensitive military sites in the United States.

Little is known about the three objects that were shot down for three consecutive days, Friday through Sunday, in part because of the recovery of debris from remote locations in Canada’s Yukon, off northern Alaska. and being close to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Lake Huron is a challenge. So far, officials have given no indication that they were part of a larger surveillance operation associated with the balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb.

Kirby told reporters, referring to the People’s Republic of China: “Right now we don’t see anything that indicates it’s part of the PRC’s spy balloon program. Nor is it likely that the subjects were “gathering intelligence against the United States in any way – that’s the indication now.”

Kirby said no country or private company has come forward to claim any of the objects. They do not appear to be operated by the US government.

Kirby hinted on Monday that three objects of different nature from hot air balloons, including their size. And his comments Tuesday marked the White House’s apparent attempt to draw the line between the balloon, which officials believe is part of a Chinese military program that has been active for more than five years. continents, and objects that authorities believe may be only part of some research. or commercial endeavor.

In Washington, Pentagon officials met with senators for a confidential press conference on the shootdowns. Lawmakers communicated concerns from their constituents about the need to notify them and then ensure that the objects were not of an extraterrestrial nature but wanted more details.

However, Senator Thom Tillis, RN.C., said recent successful intercepts could have a “calming effect” and make future shootdowns less likely.

Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., told reporters after the news conference that he did not think the objects posed a threat.

“They’re trying to figure it out — you know, there’s a lot of trash out there. So you have to figure out what is a threat and what is a threat. You see something, you don’t always have to shoot it down,” Graham said.

Biden ordered National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to form an interdisciplinary team to study the detection, analysis, and “disposal of unidentified aerial objects” that pose a safety risk or security.

The objects have also recently attracted the attention of world leaders, including in Canada, where one was shot down on Saturday, and in the United Kingdom, where the plane was shot down. The prime minister ordered a security review.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that at least three flying objects detected in Japanese airspace since 2019 are believed to be Chinese spy balloons.

Meanwhile, US officials confirmed that the first missile aimed at the object on Lake Huron landed in the water, but the second missile hit the target.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military has made every effort to ensure that no attack puts civilians at risk, including determining the size of the debris that could potentially cause damage. how much and the maximum effective range. of the missile used.

“We’re very, very careful to make sure that the footage is really safe,” Milley said. “And that is the instruction from the president. Shoot it down, but make sure we minimize collateral damage and we protect the safety of the American people.”

The object shot down on Sunday was the third object in as many days to be shot down from the sky. The White House said the objects differed in size and maneuverability compared to China surveillance hot air balloon US fighter jets were shot down earlier this month, but their altitude was low enough to pose a risk to civilian air traffic.

Weather challenges and the remote locations where three objects were shot down in Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron have hampered recovery efforts so far.

Milley was in Brussels with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet with members of the Ukraine Defense Liaison Group about additional weapons and defense needs for Kyiv against the expected Russian spring offensive.


Associated Press writer Tara Copp reported from Brussels. AP writers Lisa Mascaro and Stephen Groves contributed from Washington.

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